Sunday Night Open Thread

It’s a Sunday Night in January, 2021. I remember in 2015 I thought it would just be a few months to get this new TalkLeft site up and running. Well, a few months has turned into six years, and I still don’t know how to get the old site imported into this one, or whether this site should be TalkLeft com and the old one or how to do it.

The old site is getting too small for me to read on a mobile device. I really like this site so much better. If you haven’t registered here, please do.

It is free, and if you use your same username we will all know who you are.
It’s also much more protected against Spam.

Let me know what you all think since we have some downtime while Colin is fixing whatever I messed up on the old site that’s keeping us from posting comments there


Admissions Cheating Scandal: Updates and Thoughts

Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud/honest services fraud. Her sentencing guidelines according to the plea agreement (available here) are either 4 to 10 months (government’s calculation) or 0 to 6 months (Huffman’s calculations.) Prosecutors say they will recommend 4 months in prison either way.

A jail or prison sentence is unlikely in my view. [More…]

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A Life Sentence for Dámaso López Núñez – Or Not?

Dámaso López Núñez, aka “El Licenciado”, a long-time higher-up in the Sinaloa Cartel, whose closeness to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman goes back to 2001 when he was a corrupt prison official who helped El Chapo escapte from Puente Grande, was first indicted in the U. S. in 2013. He recently pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera at El Chapo’s upcoming trial.

The most severe sentence that can be imposed on anyone who is extradited here from Mexico is life in prison.  Mexico will not extradite anyone  without an assurance the person will not be subject to the death penalty.

A life sentence in the federal system means just that:  There is no good time reduction and  there is no parole.  If you have the misfortune of being sentenced to life in prison in federal court, you will be there until you die. 

Defendants plead guilty for a variety of reasons. Usually it is in exchange for a promise for a lesser sentence, either through an agreement to plead to a lesser charge, or an agreement to cooperate against others.

Sometimes it’s a gamble and the defendant loses. For example, Alfredo Beltran-Leyva, who was represented by two of the same lawyers now representing El Chapo, pleaded guilty to all the charges without a plea agreement (called a “blind plea”). The maximum sentence was life in prison. By pleading guilty as charged, he maintained his right to appeal his sentence and to request a lower sentence. He did not agree to a life sentence. He asked for 25 years. He lost the gamble, and the judge sentenced him to life in prison. His case is on appeal.

I don’t think I’ve seen a plea agreement in a case in which the death penalty is not an option, where the defendant agrees to serve a life sentence. [Plea Agreement of Damaso Lopez-Nunez, Eastern District of Virginia, Case No. 16-cr-00300-TSE, Doc. 29 filed 09/28/18, page 5 of 11]

[T] he parties have no agreements as to the applicability or inapplicability of any other sections ofthe Sentencing Guidelines. The United States and the defendant agree to recommend, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553 and the Sentencing Guidelines, that the Court sentence the defendant to life imprisonment. The United States and the defendant understand that the Court is not bound by this agreement.

Could there be a hidden promise when the Plea Agreement also states:

This written agreement constitutes the complete plea agreement between the United States, the defendant, and the defendant’s counsel. The defendant and the defendant’s attorney acknowledge that no threats, promises, or representations have been made, nor agreements reached, other than those set forth in writing in this plea agreement, to cause the defendant to plead guilty.

Theoretically, yes, since the agreement also states:

Any modification of this plea agreement shall be valid only as set forth in writing in a supplemental or revised plea agreement signed by all parties.

It seems to me, no one in his right mind would agree to a sentence of life in prison unless it was to avoid the death penalty. Even in the age of the Donald Trump, a sentence to life plus cancer is not (yet) an option.

I think the Government, which drafts the Plea Agreement, is telling only half the story because it intends (albeit has not unequivocally promised) to request a big sentence reduction if El Licenciado pleases the Government with his trial testimony. In other words, El Licenciado may receive a life sentence, but there likely is a sealed supplement that promises he’ll get a big sentence reduction if he tells the [Government’s] truth at El Chapo’s trial.

Let’s wait and see.

Trump’s Brazen Move to Stop Mueller’s Russia Investigation

Jeff Sessions is out as Attorney General. At the request of John Kelly, he submitted this resignation letter. The most interesting sentence is the first, which states, “At your request, I am submitting my resignation.” How is that different than being fired? In any event, there’s no reason to feel badly about Sessions’ exit. Goodbye and good riddance to him.

But what about Trump’s appointment of Sessions’ Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker, to temporarily take Sessions’ place as Acting Attorney General, a move intended to transfer oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation from Rod Rosenstein to Whitaker? Is Whitaker’s appointment legal? [More…]

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“Kavanaughed”: Who Will Agree to Run for Public Office After This Charade?

It is hard enough to find qualified, smart people to run for office as it is.  I’d bet hundreds if not thousands of well qualified people  refused to run for office or judgeships in the 70’s to 90’s due to worry about whether they could pass the FBI’s background checks and polygraph on drug use. No one cares about drug use now, it’s ubiquitous and a fact of life, in large part due to our government’s backwards policies on drug laws. Now the issue is disqualification due to 35-year old groping and indecent exposure allegations dating back to high school and freshman year in college.  People are so worked up about it, they are ready to bring out the firing squad. Even though the target of their socially or politically motivated hatred towards their perceived and now-outed offender hasn’t been charged with a crime, convicted of a crime and there’s been no confirmation a crime ever happened.

In other words, people now think it’s just fine to assume the male is guilty of whatever accusation is hurled his way. Why? Because other women chose to suffer in silence at the perceived indignities they suffered way back when and see this as a chance to get even? There’s a big difference between taking accusations seriously  and assuming the accusation is true. The former calls for an investigation. Nothing justifies the latter prior to a hearing before a neutral and detached magistrate or tribunal. That’s the law in America. [More…] Read More

Norway Open Thread

So, who’s been to Norway? Not me.

Donald Trump exposed himself today as the vulgar, insensitive man we all knew he was.

He has single-handedly ruined the image of America around the globe in the last year. How many generations will it take to recover, assuming America is still here.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome, especially site suggestions.

Bangladeshi Officials to U.S: Ullah is a Homegrown U.S. Terrorist


Bangladeshi government officials have told the U.S. that Akayed Ullah is a product of U.S. homegrown terrorism .

 Bangladesh has communicated with the US government that it has no record on Akayed Ullah’s involvement with the militancy here and termed him as a “homegrown US terrorist,” a senior Bangladesh government official said on Tuesday.

Here is the Affidavit in support of the Complaint against Ullah. Among other things, it states that Ullah wrote on his FB page, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”

The Affidavit states Ullah told authorities his attack was ISIS-inspired and he began following ISIS sites online in 2014. (What took him so long to act, and why now, after ISIS has lost so much ground in Syria and Iraq?)

ISIS has been calling for homegrown attacks in the U.S. and Europe since shortly after it declared its Caliphate in June, 2014. Deceased ISIS spokesman al-Adnani called for homegrown attacks in September, 2014.  Read More

Sen. Al Franken Gets A Groping Allegation of His Own

Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles reporter has issued a statement detailing a pretty disgusting encounter with Al Franken in 2006. Franken was not a Senator at the time. The story ends with a photo of him grabbing her breasts while she’s asleep on the military plane home from Afghanistan.

The alleged incident occurred during her 9th ISO Tour to entertain the troops. (Her father was a Vietnam vet and her husband (then her boyfriend) is an Air Force Pilot.

Franken had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.

You can read the rest at the link.

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ACLU Ready to Fight Trump Policies in Court


The ACLU says Donald Trump is a one-man constitutional crisis and it’s ready to fight him in court.

In the event of a Trump presidency, we have undertaken a constitutional analysis of his most controversial policy proposals. These include his pledges to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants, to ban Muslims from entering the United States, to surveil American Muslims and their houses of worship, to torture again, and to revise libel laws. We have found them all wanting, to say the least. According to our analysis, Trump’s proposals taken together would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.

ACLU lawyers have prepared this legal analysis of his positions. Read More

Mexico Touts Arrests of El Chapo’s Tunnel Team

Mexico’s Attorney General this week announced the arrest of six people (and a few more with arrest warrants who are not yet caught) who helped Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escape from Altiplano prison in July. She didn’t name them but their names are available on Mexican news sites. (More here and here.)

Several were arrested in July and August — in other words, not all are new arrests, just newly disclosed arrests. So who are they? See below: Read More