Life in prison for Assange

That’s what U.S. Federal prosecutors are aiming for with 17 additional charges:

A federal grand jury has announced 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who is currently in a UK jail awaiting an extradition hearing. The new indictment, made public on Thursday, relates to US documents WikiLeaks published in 2010, and alleges Assange revealed the names of individuals who were working with the US government, thus endangering their lives.

The new charges expand the original one-count indictment of conspiracy to hack into US government computers, announced in March, prior to Assange’s arrest in London. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count, on top of another five from a previous indictment, if convicted.

Imagine the charges that will be faced by people who gave much more critical information to the Chinese and Israelis… oh, wait, that’s right. Nothing ever happens to them.


We shouldn’t have been surprised

Indiegogo gets absolutely terrible consumer ratings at Consumer Affairs. 1.5 stars out of 5. And the reviews are pretty incredible, especially in the way Indiegogo appears to be totally indifferent to obvious scams.

  • I was a backer of one of their campaigns and the complaints were insane. The company was delaying and messing up all over the place on an Indiegogo campaign and it was clearly becoming a scam. I sought help from Indiegogo and posted a complaint. Indiegogo ignored me and my concerns. So I filed a scam complaint with my credit card company and they refunded my money to me, despite as I learned in an email, that Indiegogo rebutted my claim. Shame on everyone involved. I understand these direct to consumer campaigns carry some level of risk, but it became clear to me that Indiegogo is a platform that has no desire to protect the consumer and allows themselves to in reality participate in frauds.
  • I contributed to a campaign with Indiegogo – a weighted blanket costing 149.00. The campaign kept asking for contributors to “upgrade” by paying more for something larger, which I did not want. Months later, with no more emails regarding any delays, there is no product coming. Emails to the campaign went unanswered, and Indiegogo says they cannot help at all. If the campaign failed, we should be notified one way or the other. I will never use that them again. Very poor business.
  • Have been waiting for a purchase for a very long time. The backer has the funds but has become totally unresponsive. Clearly no intention to deliver. You’d think IndieGoGo would step in to prevent fraud on their platform right? Wrong. Con artists.
  • For two years, I have paid over $230. However I didn’t receive any perks. I have contacted campaigners several times, but nobody replied for my messages. For the campaigns I have contributed, I have not received any of the them.
  • I backed a campaign to the tune of $149 last year, which ultimately raised over $1.5m, and for which to this day, months after the last vague promises of dispatches, not a single product has been received. There are thousands of angry customers who have declared they have received nothing. The obviously fraudulent campaign has been flagged with Indiegogo, who not only do not offer refunds but also have not even shut down the campaign – it is still open and capable of receiving further funding! A criminal, somewhere, has made a fortune on the basis of a handful of flimsy lies, and all of it has been enabled by a company that chooses to look the other way whilst also profiting in the process. Indiegogo should be shut down.

These aren’t cherry-picked reviews either. They’re just five of the seven most-recently posted.


So that’s it?

We’ll see, but it sounds like a whole lot of nothing is all Mueller found:

Attorney General William Barr has scoured special counsel Robert Mueller’s confidential report on the Russia investigation with his advisers, deciding how much Congress and the American public will get to see about the two-year probe into President Donald Trump and Moscow’s efforts to elect him.

Barr was on pace to release his first summary of Mueller’s findings on Sunday, people familiar with the process said.

The attorney general’s decision on what to finally disclose seems almost certain to set off a fight with congressional Democrats, who want access to all of Mueller’s findings — and supporting evidence — on whether Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the election and whether the president later sought to obstruct the investigation.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversaw much of his work, analyzed the report on Saturday, laboring to condense it into a summary letter of main conclusions. Mueller delivered his full report to Barr on Friday.

I’ve been under the weather all weekend, hence the non-posting. Expect normal service to resume on Monday. On the plus side, however, AH:Q #1 is now illustrated and colored, so it will be out soon.


An illegal slap on the wrist

A Florida judger refuses to let federal prosecutors avoid prosecuting a pedophile:

A U.S. District judge on Thursday ruled that federal prosecutors illegally signed a plea agreement with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and hid it from his more than two dozen underage victims.

“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.,’’ wrote U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Palm Beach County. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’

Epstein, now 66, reached a nonprosecution deal in 2008 with then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s office to secretly end a federal sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 teenage girls that could have landed him behind bars for life. He instead pleaded guilty to state charges, spent 13 months in jail, paid settlements to victims and is a registered sex offender.

Acosta, now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, has defended the deal as appropriate but has not commented since the recent round of stories. He was asked about the case during his Senate confirmation hearings for the Cabinet post. “At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing,” he said.

Earlier February, the Justice Department opened an investigation into federal prosecutors’ handling of the plea deal.

The USA is increasingly a government of men, not laws. But not, it seems, entirely. At least, not yet.What Acosta did was wrong and he must have known it to be wrong, or he would not have hidden the deal from the victims.


Discovery

This weekend, we discovered that Indiegogo actually broke their own refund policy when they refunded all the AH:Q backers.

When are contributions not eligible for a refund?

Contributions cannot be refunded by Indiegogo, if any of the following are true:

  • The contribution funds have already been transferred to the campaign owner
  • The campaign has ended [emphasis mine -VD]
  • The perk associated with the contribution has been fulfilled (contribution is marked as fulfilled on Indiegogo by the campaigner)
  • Indiegogo determines that there has been an abuse of our Terms of Use, or the refund policy.

The AH:Q campaign ended on September 26, 2018. On October 11, Indiegogo froze Arkhaven’s account and announced it was initiating a review process. Less than an hour later, but two weeks after the end of the campaign, Indiegogo sent ineligible refunds to all the AH:Q backers in violation of its own refund policy. It wasn’t until the next day, October 12, that Arkhaven was informed that Indiegogo “will be processing refunds for your campaign.”

UPDATE: It just keeps getting better. From the same Refund Policy page.

Please note, we are unable to cancel your campaign or issue mass refunds for any campaign that has raised funds.

C-can you feel that? Can you hear that? That sounds like… rubble. And it’s… it’s bouncing!


“Unusual activity”

Believe it or not, that’s Indiegogo’s lame excuse for failing to deliver as promised on a contract. We’ve also figured out what tactics they are hiding behind; they put the information in the account instead of emailing you, then delete your access to the account so you have nothing with which to hold them accountable. Too bad for them that I’m in the habit of taking detailed notes and screenshots when I don’t trust people, so we can already prove exactly what they did and where to confirm it.

 Needless to say, it looks like we’ll be moving forward on this one. We already have several alternatives, so if you’re a backer, please just be patient and hold your fire. It will probably be a week or two before we open up the campaign version 2.0.

Unless you’re VFM, in which case you know what information we want.


Stopping anti-semitism in its tracks

An Israeli court convicts the worst anti-semite seen in decades.

A Tel Aviv district court convicted an Israeli Jewish man for making a string of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers in the United States. The court did not name the man on Thursday since he was a teen when he committed the crimes. But he’s been previously identified as Michael Ron David Kadar, a hacker who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship.

The man’s arrest followed a trans-Atlantic investigation with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. Dozens of anonymous threats last year had stoked fears of rising anti-Semitism.

Police said Kadar, from southern Israel, used advanced technologies to mask the origin of his calls and communications to synagogues, community buildings and public venues.

US-resident Jews can now breathe a sigh of relief that this monstrous anti-semite is behind bars and can no longer terrorize them.


Trump travel ban upheld

As if there should have been ANY doubt that it was constitutional:

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of President Donald Trump in Trump v. Hawaii, the controversial case regarding Trump’s September order to restrict travel to the U.S. for citizens of several majority Muslim countries.

In the 5-4 opinion penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court found that Trump’s immigration restriction fell “squarely” within the president’s authority. The court rejected claims that the ban was motivated by religious hostility.

“The [order] is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices,” Roberts wrote. “The text says nothing about religion.”

The case has been central to the Trump administration’s immigration policy, presenting a key test of the president’s campaign promise to restrict immigration and secure America’s borders.

The fact that it was 5-4 instead of 9-0 is the problem. And even if the ban was motivated by religious hostility, so what? The executive branch is, by definition, not the Congress that shall make no law.


A nice surprise

The Supreme Court denies warrant-free phone tracking:

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of digital privacy.

In a 5-4 decision on Friday the justices said that police need warrants to gather phone location data as evidence for trials. That reversed and remanded a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Carpenter v. United States is the first case about phone location data that the Supreme Court has ruled on. That makes it a landmark decision regarding how law enforcement agencies can use technology as they build cases. The court heard arguments in the case on Nov. 29.

The dispute dates back to a 2011 robbery in Detroit, after which police gathered months of phone location data from Timothy Carpenter’s phone provider. They pulled together 12,898 different locations from Carpenter, over 127 days.

Interesting that it was the liberals on the court actually ruled in favor of warrants. These days, they only seem to want to increase government power.

ROBERTS,  C.  J.,  delivered  the  opinion  of  the  Court,  in  which  GINS-BURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.  KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined.  THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.  ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined.  GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion. 

I was particularly unimpressed by Alito’s dissent. Location tracking records simply cannot be confused with ordinary documentation.


Too little, too late

The Supreme Court finally forces online sellers to collect and pay sales tax:

States will be able to force shoppers to pay sales tax when they make online purchases under a Supreme Court decision Thursday that will leave shoppers with lighter wallets but is a big win for states.

More than 40 states had asked the high court to overrule two, decades-old Supreme Court decisions that they said cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue annually. The decisions made it more difficult for states to collect sales tax on certain online purchases.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to overturn those decisions in a 5-4 ruling. The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a customer’s purchase to a state where the business didn’t have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax. Customers were generally responsible for paying the sales tax to the state themselves if they weren’t charged it, but most didn’t realize they owed it and few paid.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.

“Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States. These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause,” he wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

This is the right decision, but over a decade too late. The effect of those earlier decisions was to favor big nation-wide retailers over traditional distribution channels and local retailers. Unfortunately, most of the damage has already been done.