Patterico's Pontifications


Gorgeous Actress and Husband Throw in the Towel

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:56 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Lori Loughlin, who first captured my aching teenage heart in the 1985 comedy Secret Admirer (with C. Thomas Howell and Kelly Preston, the future Mrs. John Travolta), has ended her battle against the Justice Department:

Lori Loughlin and [husband] Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty in the college admissions scandal case and to each serve time behind bars after more than a year of maintaining their innocence.

The Massachusetts District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that the couple will plead guilty at a yet-to-be-determined court date. Loughlin will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, while Giannulli will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and to honest services wire and mail fraud.

If the judge accepts the terms of their plea agreement, both will do time in prison. Loughlin would serve two months and pay a $150,000 fine along with two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. Giannulli, meanwhile, would serve five months in prison, pay a $250,000 fine with two years of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.

This is of course an outgrowth of the “Varsity Blues” scandal in which wealthy and connected parents undertook a variety of underhanded methods to land their children spots in selective universities. Both Patterico and Dana have covered the story since it first broke last spring. The Loughlin/Giannulli duo will be the twenty-third and twenty-fourth defendants to plead guilty in this matter. They had intended to argue that they were assured the money they had paid counted as legitimate donations to charitable causes. But two weeks ago the judge rejected a pre-trial motion seeking to suppress evidence based upon alleged government misconduct, and Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli thus faced an uphill battle to win acquittal in the jury trial that was scheduled to begin this coming fall.

I still think that the government wasted resources and time chasing these parents and threatening them with jail time, especially in light of the fact that we are currently emptying our cells due to social justice concerns, budgetary reasons, and the COVID-19 virus. The fact that the Loughlin/Giannulli duo will serve their sentences at worst in tennis prison or, more likely, in home confinement doesn’t change my mind. I’ve been consistent in my belief that private universities should only be accountable to their faculty, students, and alumnae/i with respect to the composition of each freshman class, and if they choose to fill it with legacy admits, athletes & artists, or the children of the well-connected then that is entirely their business. If a student lies and/or cheats to gain admission, that is between the student and the institution and not a matter of concern for the federal government. Turning this into a matter of wire and mail fraud strikes me as overreach, though I concede that I have lost the battle where this case is concerned.

But at least I’ve established that I will never turn my back on my teenage crushes. [Video mostly safe for work, in a PG-13 sort of way.]


FBI: Shooting At Corpus Christi Naval Air Station Is Terrorism-Related

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:49 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The incident happened this morning:

A shooting that injured one security guard at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas on Thursday has been determined to be terrorism-related, FBI officials said.

The shooting unfolded at about 6:15 a.m. local time when the suspect sped through a gate, activating vehicle barriers which stopped the car, a defense official told ABC News.

The driver then got out of the car and began shooting, before being “neutralized,” the defense official said.

“We have determined that the incident this morning at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is terrorism related,” said Leah Greeves of the FBI. “They are working diligently with local, state and federal partners on the investigation, which is fluid and evolving.”

No reason has been given for why the incident has been determined to be related to terrorism. Also, a search is underway for a second “person of interest”.

Note: This comes just days after Attorney General Barr announced the link between the NAS Pensacola shooter that killed three sailors in December to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and called it an “act of terrorism”.


President Trump Annoyed Fox News Not Working Hard Enough To Get Him Re-elected

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:10 pm

[guest post by Dana]

It drove me nuts when a previous president was able to count on Big Media to give him a pass, give him a hand, and head up his cheerleading section. It aggravated me that this same president could count on Big Media to lob him softballs during interviews, let things slide instead of following up with direct questions designed to compel honest answers, advocate for him, and practically campaign for him when election time rolled around. I believed it was wrong of the media to do that back then, and I still feel that way today. So when I see tweets like the ones below, I have a similar reaction. Trump wants what every president before him has wanted: a media that works for him and on his behalf, makes him look good, and helps him realize his goals. But did previous presidents expect this? Did they think the media was obligated to do that for them? Maybe. But what isn’t in question, is the fact that Trump believes that Fox News is obligated to work on his behalf, and on behalf of the Republican Party. And when the organization fails to meet his expectations, he lashes out at them. While today’s Big Media is a collectively biased entity that has morphed into an unabashed advocacy group for pet (read: liberal) causes and politicians, they have also lost tremendous credibility in doing so. We’ve seen their hypocritical-non-trustworthy underpants, and we cannot unsee them. And yet here we have Trump angry at Fox News for not behaving the same way:


The Vexing Issue of When Churches Can Safely Reopen

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:32 am

[guest post by Dana]

California churches in revolt:

Buoyed by a letter from the U.S. Justice Department to Gov. Gavin Newsom that emphasizes the right to worship, a lawyer for a church suing over California’s coronavirus ban on in-person services says he expects thousands of congregations to return to their churches a week from Sunday.

The move comes as the fight over whether the state has the right to prohibit church services for now has moved to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a Lodi church is seeking an emergency injunction against the ban, and as hundreds of pastors have signed a petition declaring that their services are “essential.”

“More than 1,200 pastors have signed the ‘declaration of essentiality’ that we were asked to put together,” said attorney Robert Tyler, one of the lawyers fighting for the right of Lodi’s Cross Culture Christian Center to reopen. “We expect more than 3,000 individual churches to open May 31, with or without permission.”

Here is the gist of the argument, according to Tyler:

We are not trying to say that churches are somehow exempted from engaging in protective measures that are required of secular enterprises. We are simply saying that it’s unconstitutional to require that churches stay closed when they can engage in the same protective measures as a grocery store, restaurant or other similar businesses.

This lines up with Eric S. Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, who wrote:

The Department of Justice does not seek to dictate how States such as California determine what degree of activity and personal interaction should be allowed to protect the safety of their citizens. However, we are charged with upholding the Constitution and federal statutory protections for civil rights.

Whichever level of restrictions you adopt, these civil rights protections mandate equal treatment of persons and activities of a secular and religious nature.

Tyler claims that churches that meet on May 31 will observe social distancing measures. Meh. At this point, Tyler is just hoping for the best case scenario.

Anyway, California is currently in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan. In-person church services are set to resume during Phase 3 of the state’s plan.

Other states are wrestling with when to reopen their churches. Some states are even looking further into the future, as with Pennsylvania:

State Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Westmoreland, said religious leaders have been confused about whether churches are affected by state-mandated coronavirus shutdowns.

“Our religious community is very confused. They don’t want to violate a law, but they’re also extremely frustrated,” he said.

Nelson and Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga, introduced House Bill 2530, which would amend the state’s Religious Freedom Protection Act of 2002 to prohibit the limitation of religious gatherings during a state of emergency.

New Jersey pastors want to see churches be identified as “essential” and not “non-essential”:

Several South Jersey pastors say they answer to a higher power and want to reopen their doors, even if Governor Phil Murphy has prohibited church services.

Pastor Charles Clark, of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Berlin, said the United States Constitution gives him the right, and the Bible gives him the mandate to invite parishioners back to the pews.

“Walmart is open, the pet store is open, the bicycle repair shop is open, and all are considered essential, but the church has been closed,” he said.

Clark’s attorney sent a letter to Murphy demanding that the status of churches in the Garden State be switched from non-essential to essential.

Even as the state slowly begins to reopen, Murphy has made it clear that until there’s a vaccine or treatment, mass gatherings, including church services, will likely remain restricted.

“Inside, no ventilation, close contact, it’s a hard nut to crack. We’re just not there yet,” he said.

Just days ago, a report came out that the CDC linked an Arkansas church service to a coronavirus outbreak. This occurred before nationwide social-distancing guidelines were implemented:

A Centers for Disease Control study released Tuesday found that 38% of 92 attendees at events held at an Arkansas church in early March tested positive for Covid-19, underscoring the risks of public gatherings as states reopen.

According to the study, 35 of the attendees tested positive for Covid-19, while 3 have died; another 26 cases and another additional death were linked to the church’s outbreak.

The church’s pastor and his wife developed coronavirus symptoms and indefinitely closed the church March 12, 2020. .

The question of churches being able to hold in-person services during the pandemic has been a polarizing one – and a political one as well. According to reports, the reopening guidelines for churches was delayed because of a conflict between the Trump administration and the CDC: how would Trump’s base receive limitations on in-person services?:

CDC draft guidance on houses of worship was the subject of much internal debate at the White House last month. Some aides did not want any guidance for religious institutions. Others thought recommendations were too restrictive.

In the end, the decision to hold back reopening guidance for religious institutions came from some White House and coronavirus task force officials who did not want to alienate the faithful and believed that some of the proposals, such as limits on hymnals, the size of choirs or the passing of collection plates, were too restrictive, according to two administration officials.

Trump and Vice President Pence have maintained close ties to conservative religious leaders during the shutdown, scheduling private calls and asking for support as they try to reopen the nation, the officials said.

Officials in Pence’s office, the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council raised concerns about the guidelines for religious institutions, the officials said.

There were conversations about scaling back the guidelines, but after weeks of discussion, they were left out entirely, one of these officials said. At one point, officials discussed various religious groups and even called pastors and other religious leaders to see if they could shape the guidelines in accordance with “faith traditions,” according to one senior administration official.

The White House wants to get the churches opened up again, but they are not planning on issuing any issue any guidance for religious institutions at this time. White House spokesman Judd Deere said that

President Trump and “all Americans want to see their churches safely open again. Not only is it good for the community, it’s their right under the Constitution to worship freely without government intrusion. The Trump administration will always protect that right and continue to partner with states to ensure congregations are properly protected as restrictions are responsibly eased.”


So, Flynn Was Never “Masked” to Begin With

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am


A Republican effort to determine who may have leaked the name of Michael Flynn in connection to his 2016 contact with the Russian ambassador has centered on the question of which Obama administration officials requested his identity be “unmasked” in intelligence documents.

But in the FBI report about the communications between the two men, Flynn’s name was never redacted, former U.S. officials said.

. . . .

It was the FBI, not the NSA, that wiretapped Kislyak’s calls and created the summary and transcript, the former officials said.

“When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning” because it was essential to understanding its significance, said a former senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive intelligence. “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information.”

On to the next contrived scandal!

Meanwhile, the new State Department IG has already started, which is entirely illegal:

You can TrusTed to come out swinging on this, on account of how much he loves him the Rule of Law, you know.

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