The Professional Managerial Class is Enemy #1 | Catherine Liu Joins

PMC’S are leading the Working Class Over a Cliff | The Case Against The Professional Managerial Class with Special Guest Catherine Liu

“Petty Tyrant” : This American Life

In Schenectady, New York, a school maintenance man named Steve Raucci works his way up the ranks for 30 years, until finally he’s in charge of the maintenance department. That’s when he starts messing with his employees. Teasing them at meetings. Punishing them with crummy work assignments. Or worse things, like secretly slashing their tires in the middle of the night.

Ten years after his arrest, Steve Raucci broke his silence and gave an interview to Paul Nelson at the Times Union in Albany.

Ginni and Clarence Thomas Have Done Enough Damage

What did Justice Clarence Thomas know, and when did he know it?

The question usually gets directed at politicians, not judges, but it’s a fair one in light of the revelation on Thursday that Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginni, was working feverishly behind the scenes — and to a far greater degree than she previously admitted — in a high-level effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

As The Washington Post and CBS News first reported, Ms. Thomas, a supremely well-connected right-wing agitator, was in constant communication with the White House in the weeks following the election, strategizing over how to keep Donald Trump in office despite his incontrovertible loss. “Do not concede,” she texted to Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, on Nov. 6, the day before the major news networks called the election for Joe Biden. “It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back.” (To date, Mr. Trump has not conceded.)

In dozens of messages with Mr. Meadows over several weeks, Ms. Thomas raged over baseless allegations of voter fraud and shared unhinged conspiracy theories, including one that the “Biden crime family” was in the process of being arrested and sent to Guantánamo Bay for “ballot fraud.”

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” Ms. Thomas wrote at one point. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Ms. Thomas had already acknowledged some involvement in the fight over the 2020 election count, recently confirming that she attended the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally in Washington, but she said she went home before Mr. Trump spoke to the crowd and before a mob of hundreds stormed the Capitol in a violent attempt to block the certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory. The texts reveal that her efforts to subvert the election were far more serious than we knew.

Now recall that in January, the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Trump’s request to block the release of White House records relating to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Mr. Meadows had submitted a brief in the case supporting Mr. Trump. The court’s ruling came as an unsigned order, with only one noted dissent: from Justice Thomas.

Perhaps Justice Thomas was not aware of his wife’s text-message campaign to Mr. Meadows at the time. But it sure makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

And that’s precisely the problem: We shouldn’t have to wonder. The Supreme Court is the most powerful judicial body in the country, and yet, as Alexander Hamilton reminded us, it has neither the sword nor the purse as a means to enforce its rulings. It depends instead on the American people’s acceptance of its legitimacy, which is why the justices must make every possible effort to appear fair, unbiased and beyond reproach.

That may seem naïve, particularly in the face of the crippling assaults on the court that Mitch McConnell and his Senate Republicans have carried out over the past six years in order to secure a right-wing supermajority that often resembles a judicial policy arm of the Republican Party — starting with their theft of a vacancy that was President Barack Obama’s to fill and continuing through the last-second confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett while millions of voters were already in the process of casting Mr. Trump out of office.

And yet the public’s demand for basic fairness and judicial neutrality is not only proper but critical to the court’s integrity, as the justices, whoever nominated them, are well aware. Partly in response to the court’s tanking public-approval ratings, several of them have grown increasingly outspoken in defense of their independence. (Though not all of them.)

The most obvious way for justices to demonstrate that independence in practice, of course, is to recuse themselves from any case in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. It does not matter whether there is, in fact, a conflict of interest; the mere appearance of bias or conflict should be enough to compel Justice Thomas or any other member of the court to step aside.

Many of them have over the years, out of respect for the court as an institution and for the public’s faith in their probity. Just this week, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson vowed that if confirmed she would recuse herself from an upcoming case challenging Harvard’s affirmative-action policies, because of her multiple personal and professional connections to the university. Legal-ethics experts are not even in agreement that her recusal would be necessary, but Judge Jackson is right to err on the side of caution.

Justice Thomas has paid lip service to this ideal. “I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference,” he said in a speech last year. “That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”

Bench memo to the justice: You know what jeopardizes public faith in legal institutions? Refusing to recuse yourself from numerous high-profile cases in which your wife has been personally and sometimes financially entangled, as The New Yorker reported in January. Especially when you have emphasized that you and she are melded “into one being.” Or when you have, as The Times Magazine reported last month, appeared together with her for years “at highly political events hosted by advocates hoping to sway the court.”

Ms. Thomas’s efforts, and her husband’s refusal to respond appropriately, have been haunting the court for years, but this latest conflagration shouldn’t be a close call. “The texts are the narrowest way of looking at this,” Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and one of the nation’s foremost legal-ethics experts, told me. “She signed up for Stop the Steal. She was part of the team, and that team had an interest in how the court would rule. That’s all I need to know.” He said he has over the years resisted calling for Justice Thomas’s recusal based on his wife’s actions, “but they’ve really abused that tolerance.”

Yes, married people can lead independent professional lives, and it is not a justice’s responsibility to police the actions of his or her spouse. But the brazenness with which the Thomases have flouted the most reasonable expectations of judicial rectitude is without precedent. From the Affordable Care Act to the Trump administration’s Muslim ban to the 2020 election challenges, Ms. Thomas has repeatedly embroiled herself in big-ticket legal issues and with litigants who have wound up before her husband’s court. All the while, he has looked the other way, refusing to recuse himself from any of these cases. For someone whose job is about judging, Justice Thomas has, in this context at least, demonstrated abominably poor judgment.

If Justice Thomas were sitting on any other federal court in the country, he would likely have been required by the code of judicial ethics to recuse himself many times over. But the code does not apply to Supreme Court justices, creating a situation in which the highest court in the land is also the most unaccountable.

This is not tolerable. For years, Congress has tried in vain to extend the ethics code to the Supreme Court. For the sake of fundamental fairness and consistency, the code must apply to all federal judges; it would at the very least force the hand of those like Justice Thomas who seem unmoved by any higher sense of duty to the institution or to the American people who have agreed to abide by its rulings.

The court is in deep trouble these days, pervaded by what Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently called the “stench” of partisanship — a stench arising in no small part from the Thomases’ behavior. It is hard to imagine that the other justices, regardless of their personal politics, aren’t bothered.

No one should have to choose between their devotion to their spouse and their duty to the nation. But Justice Thomas has shown himself unwilling or unable to protect what remains of the court’s reputation from the appearance of extreme bias he and his wife have created. He would do the country a service by stepping down and making room for someone who won’t have that problem.

This Attorney Took On Chevron. Then Chevron-Linked Judges and Private Prosecutors Had Him Locked Up.

After spending more than 700 days under house arrest, a human rights and environmental lawyer was found guilty last month of criminal contempt in a legal saga that has demonstrated the deep-rooted conflicts of interest layered throughout the judicial system when it comes to climate justice. In Steven Donziger’s conviction, the initial judge who referred him to trial, the second judge who was asked to lead the trial, and the private prosecutors who tried him all had deep ties to Chevron, the company Donziger had won a landmark multibillion-dollar ruling against.

The story began in 2011 when Donziger brought litigation against Texaco (now Chevron) in Ecuador for the harm it caused the Indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where the fossil fuel company decided to deliberately discharge 16 billion gallons of toxic waste from its oil sites into rivers, groundwater, and farmland. A refusal from Chevron to adhere to environmental regulations—which earned the company an extra $5 billion over 20 years—led to more than 30,000 Ecuadorians being directly harmed by the oil giant’s actions, the judges in that case found. The case Donziger led made it all the way to the Ecuador Supreme Court, and successfully secured $9.5 billion in environmental damages for the Amazonian communities in a historic climate justice decision.

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In a letter sent to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts at the end of last month, Sens. Ed Markey and Sheldon Whitehouse brought into question specifically the use of private prosecutors in the contempt case against Donziger. The three prosecutors that Kaplan appointed, Brian Maloney, Sareen Armani, and Rita Glavin (who is also Andrew Cuomo’s personal lawyer), were all at the time with the law firm Seward & Kissel. That firm had represented Chevron as recently as 2018. “These prosecutions,” the senators wrote, “are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system.”

Indeed, the apparent conflict of interest the private prosecution had is directly at odds with Supreme Court precedent. In the 1987 decision of Young v. United States ex rel. Vuitton et Fils, the Supreme Court ruled that, when it comes to private prosecutors pursuing criminal contempt cases, they “certainly should be as disinterested as a public prosecutor who undertakes such a prosecution.”

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“Public confidence in the disinterested conduct” of the private prosecutor, the court warned, is essential to maintaining the integrity of the judicial system. That means that even the appearance of interest on the part of the private prosecutor can be considered a violation of Vuitton.

“Appearances are really functionally important for the rule of law, and for our judiciary,” said Guha Krishnamurthi, an associate professor of law at the University of Oklahoma. Krishnamurthi argues that one of the “biggest protections” of the criminal justice system is a disinterested prosecutor who can determine whether or not pursuing a case is to the benefit of the criminal justice system. The fact that a public prosecutor is accountable to the government and to the public, he says, reinforces this protection in a way that private prosecutors do not.

“I think it’s such a clear abuse that it violates the defendant’s constitutional right to due process. You can’t have someone who’s got a conflict of interest, who has personal reasons for wanting to see a person they’re prosecuting convicted,” said Louis Raveson, a professor of law at Rutgers Law School and the founder of the university’s Environmental Law Clinic. “That’s not an appropriate procedure, and, in my view, it’s not a constitutional procedure.”

“This is a perversion of justice, the whole idea that you can have a lawyer who previously worked for Chevron then prosecuting Donziger in the criminal case,” said Martin Garbus, Donziger’s attorney and a prominent veteran of human rights litigation. “It’s clear that it violates the law. … If you look at the body of law that deals with disinterest, people are disqualified for something far, far less than the involvement here.”

Raveson acknowledged that in certain instances, like police brutality cases or other times when the government is being asked to prosecute itself, private prosecutors can be truly beneficial. A private prosecutor there would likely be necessary in order to ensure disinterest and justice, as the public prosecutor works for the government. Often, though, they’re used in cases like Donziger’s, after a disinterested public prosecutor declines to pursue the charge and the judge decides to move forward anyway. “That’s all the more reason that judges need to err on the side of no possibility of a conflict,” Raveson said. Speaking of the Donziger case, he added, “It appears that a conflict is almost inevitable … and clearly that’s not by accident.”

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When it comes to the decisions that could prevent one of the largest climate justice judgments of the past decade from taking effect, such appearances of conflict of interest are incredibly significant—and could be detrimental to future climate justice litigation.

It’s scary going after a large corporation [and] it’s scary going after governments because they have so much power and so much influence that they can do a lot of damage to someone’s life,” Raveson said. “If the lawyers who bring [environmental justice cases like Donziger’s] are subject to biased determinations as to whether or not they should be punished … it’s going to have a deterrent effect on lawyers to bring these kinds of cases.”

Such a deterrence could have massive consequences for the climate, especially at a time when, as this week’s new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed, the world is barreling further toward climate catastrophe, a crisis that is driven in no small part by fossil fuel companies like Chevron. “It’s up to the judiciary to really ensure that that kind of chilling and deterrence … doesn’t happen,” Krishnamurthi added. “And the way you do that is by having more than just the formality of the rules, [but] having a true fidelity to conflicts of interest and disqualifying where necessary.”

Bucket Shops: unethical brokerages

What Is a Bucket Shop?

A bucket shop is a brokerage firm that engages in unethical business practices. Historically, the term was used to refer to firms that allowed their customers to gamble on stock prices, often using dangerously high levels of leverage.

More recently, the term is associated with firms that practice bucketing, which involves profiting from a client’s trades without their knowledge.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A bucket shop is a brokerage firm that engages in unethical business practices.
  • Historically, they would facilitate gambling on stock prices, often encouraging their clients to use dangerous levels of leverage.
  • Today, bucket shops are associated with so-called bucketing transactions, which involves illegally profiting from clients’ trades.

 

Understanding Bucket Shops

Bucket shops are brokerage firms that have clear and unmitigated conflicts of interest with their customers. Traditionally, they functioned as gambling houses in which customers were encouraged to take on substantial leverage in order to speculate on future stock prices. When customers occasionally profited on their trades, the gains would be advertised by the bucket shop to recruit new customers. In most instances, however, the customers would face large or even total losses. As with all gambling activities, the bucket shops benefited from their customer’s losses.

Bucket shops became common in the late 1800s, when the spread of new communications technologies, such as the telegraph, made it possible to speculate on stock prices in a timely manner. Bucket shops emerged to let clients gamble on stock prices in the same way that they might otherwise bet on racehorses,

One possible explanation for the origins of the name “bucket shop” has to do with another technique used by these firms to profit off their clients. After executing their trades throughout the day, bucket shops would sometimes throw the trade tickets into a bucket. After mixing the tickets together, the firm would then allocate winning and losing trades to specific clients based on their assessment of which clients would likely generate the most profit for the firm. This practice is of course prohibited by today’s legal and regulatory standards.

Today, the term is used more precisely to refer to brokerage firms that unethically profit from their clients’ transactions. Specifically, it refers to firms that engage in bucketing, which is the practice of misleading clients about the actual price at which a requested transaction was executed and using this deception to profit from their trades.

 

Real World Example of a Bucket Shop

To illustrate bucketing, consider a case where a client asks to purchase 1,000 shares of stock at a price of $20 per share. An unscrupulous broker might tell the client that the shares were purchased for $20, when in fact they were purchased for $19.

The difference of $1 per share would be pocketed by the broker as profit, without disclosing this fact to the client. Effectively, the broker would have stolen $1,000 worth of profit from the client. This type of transaction is known as bucketing, and firms which engage in it are described as bucket shops.

Bolton Slams Trump, Suggests Foreign Policy Guided By Personal Interest | Andrea Mitchell | MSNBC

Former national security adviser John Bolton derided President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law during a private speech last week and suggested his former boss’ approach to U.S. policy on Turkey is motivated by personal or financial interests, several people who were present for the remarks told NBC News. Aired on 11/12/19.