Friday, February 08, 2019

Recent Stories:

"Matthew Whitaker:  The Ethical Mire of Trump's Top Law Officer," Murray Waas, The New York Review of Books, January 15, 20019.

In August 2017, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who then headed a conservative advocacy group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, more commonly known by its acronym FACT, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the Democratic National Committee and one of its consultants had violated federal election law. Whitaker’s complaint claimed that the DNC and a Ukrainian-American political strategist named Alexandra Chalupa had broken the law when she met with officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., during the 2016 presidential election to find out what, if anything, diplomats there knew about Paul Manafort’s work as a political adviser to a former Ukrainian president and political party that wanted their country to cut ties with the West and align Ukraine with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Chalupa, who already knew about Manafort’s decades-long work on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian political interests from her work as a human rights activist, had grave concerns that Manafort had recently been named to be Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

It was routine for Whitaker and FACT to file such complaints with the FEC, the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of Government Ethics, and the Justice Department alleging wrongdoing by Democratic Party candidates and officeholders. Ordinarily, little came of these complaints. Indeed, the FEC has given no indication it will investigate Whitaker’s allegations in Chalupa’s case, and no evidence has emerged that either Chalupa or the DNC did anything wrong. Whitaker understood that his complaints would garner media coverage, amplifying his allegations of impropriety, even as the federal agencies with whom he filed his complaints almost invariably turned down his requests to investigate. News organizations that reported on the complaints rarely informed their readers later that no wrongdoing had been uncovered. A Republican political operative involved in some of FACT’s earliest efforts told New York Magazine: “The whole thing just became a chop shop of fake ethics complaints.”

What was distinctive—and odd—about FACT’s complaint in this filing against the DNC and Chalupa was that Whitaker had lifted numerous passages verbatim from a previous complaint filed with the FEC by various mainstream and liberal organizations seeking an investigation into whether the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. had violated federal campaign finance law by attending the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016. At that meeting, Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort met with intermediaries of the Russian government who had promised to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

To read the rest of the article, click here.


"Schumer Calls for Investigation of Whitaker's Contacts with the White House," Alexander Bolton, The Hill,  January 20, 2018.


Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) is calling for an investigation into private conversations acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had with the White House about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump's campaign and Russia.
Citing recent media reports, Schumer says there’s a risk that Whitaker, who previously served as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff before taking his job after Election Day, may have tried to interfere in Mueller’s probe..

 The Vox report, written by veteran journalist Murray Waas, revealed that Whitaker, while he was serving as chief of staff to Sessions, was counseling the White House on how the president might pressure Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to direct the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s enemies.

To read more, click here.

"Murray Waas reports Mueller has Evidence that Implicates Trump in an Obstruction of Justice,"  Ian Reifowitz, Daily Kos, July 31, 2018.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Meanings of Khizr Khan

The Meanings of Khizr Khan (Part 1)

Meaning # 1:  Khizr Khan has been a better spokesperson as to why to vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump,  or at least to vote against Trump, than Clinton herself has been.

Meaning # 2:  Khan has put more fear into Donald Trump than John Kasich, Paul Ryan, or perhaps even Hillary Clinton...

Meaning # 3: He's not going away any time soon, either as an eloquent spokesman for what it means to be an American or as a campaign issue.

From the New York Times today:

Khizr Khan, the soldier’s father, lashed out at Mr. Trump in an interview on Saturday, saying his wife had not spoken at the convention because it was too painful for her to talk about her son’s death.
Mr. Trump, he said, “is devoid of feeling the pain of a mother who has sacrificed her son.”...

Mr. Trump told Mr. Stephanopoulos that Mr. Khan seemed like a “nice guy” and that he wished him “the best of luck.” But, he added, “If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.”

From the Washington Post today:

“They begin to see this person who can hardly speak correct English, who has an accent — and they are saying, ‘How dare he say something of that profound nature?’ Not profound in their eyes, but profound in how many people have responded,” said Khan, a Harvard-trained lawyer who lives in Charlottesville, Va.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Most Recent Works

(in reverse chronological order)

"Survival of the Sickest: "Health Insurer Assurant Settles Discrimatory Pricing Complaint,"  Murray Waas, International Business Times, July 10, 2015.

When executives at Assurant Health announced last month that the company would be going out of business, they blamed Obamacare. And they had a point. The sweeping healthcare revision outlawed one of Assurant's most profitable practices: charging its sickest customers higher prices or pulling their coverage entirely.

A complaint the company settled with Montana’s commissioner of securities and insurance, made public Thursday, offers a glimpse into how Assurant Health does business even as it winds down operations. The complaint alleged that the insurer discriminated against less-healthy customers and manipulated prices. In settling the allegations made by the state’s insurance commissioner, Assurant did not admit to any wrongdoing, but it agreed to pay $1.7 million in refunds to Montana customers and a $25,000 fine to the state. The settlement was signed July 1.

Assurant Health’s accusation that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) killed its earnings turns out to be true. Assurant’s decline illustrates the law’s effectiveness as a tool for preventing discriminatory practices in health coverage. Assurant Health, which once provided more than 1 million Americans with health insurance, generated $1.9 billion in revenue in 2014 but posted a loss of $64 million. In the first quarter of 2015 alone, it lost $84 million. The company’s profits sank at least in part because it could no longer engage in what federal and state regulators say were unethical practices to rid its rolls of the sickest patients. The ACA made many such practices illegal...

But allegations in the Montana insurance commissioner’s complaint illustrate that Assurant Health -- even as it’s shutting down -- has continued to engage in practices that are no longer legal.
Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen’s complaint alleged Assurant charged two prices for the same health-insurance policies: a lower price for healthier customers and a higher price for sicker Montanans. Lindeen said Assurant Health offered what it called “discounts” to customers who had very few health-insurance claims...

More serious allegations in the past centered on claims that Assurant engaged in a practice known as “rescission” or “post-claims underwriting” in which the company conducted aggressive investigations of customers diagnosed with life-threatening and expensive illnesses -- such as cancer, HIV or lymphoma -- to find some pretext to cancel their policies. Investigations between 2005 and 2010 by state and federal regulators, as well as a U.S. House of Representatives committee concluded that very rarely was a customer’s health insurance canceled for a legitimate reason.

The practice of rescission largely ended as a result of a national outcry following reports that WellPoint, then the nation’s largest health insurer, had specifically targeted women with breast cancer for investigation and cancellation. President Obama and his administration condemned the conduct and pressed WellPoint to stop. WellPoint announced it would end the practice and soon the entire health insurance industry agreed to do the same, ending decades-long practices by WellPoint, Assurant and other companies...

"Justice Department Officials Slam Obama Administration For Not Enforcing Law Barring States From Jailing Too Many Youths With Adults," Murray Waas, International Business Times.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is failing to sanction states that house excessive numbers of teenagers and children in adult jails and prisons, placing them at greater risk for violent attacks, sexual assaults and suicide, two career Justice Department employees plan to testify Tuesday in front of a Senate panel.
Under a 1974 law known as the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the Justice Department is required to sharply curtail some federal aid to state governments when those states incarcerate too many juveniles and children in adult jails and prisons. The law also demands that the federal government withhold such funds from states that lock up large numbers of so-called status offenders -- children and teens who have engaged in minor offenses such as truancy, curfew violations, drinking alcohol or running away from home.
The law was later amended to require the Justice Department to also cut grant money to states that fail to make fixes after the determination that their criminal justice systems hold "disproportionate" numbers of minority youths.
The two career Justice Department officials are expected to testify that the Obama administration is in violation of federal law by continuing to provide these funds to eight jurisdictions that do not meet one or more of those standards: Virginia, Illinois, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Idaho and Alabama, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico...

"Allen Stanford Files 299-Page Appeal for 110-Year Sentence," Michael Lindenberger and Murray Waas, Dallas Morning News, October 5, 2014.

WASHINGTON — Even tucked away inside a high-security federal prison in Central Florida, former Houston billionaire banker Allen Stanford is still thinking big — and flouting the rules.

Stanford filed a 299-page brief last month with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, making no fewer than 15 lengthy arguments about why he should be set free. He was convicted in 2012 on 13 felony charges related to America’s second-largest Ponzi scheme ever and sentenced to 110 years in prison.

Before being halted by a federal judge in Dallas in 2009, Stanford’s fraud had drawn in more victims than any other investment scheme in American history. There are more than 18,000 outstanding claims from defrauded investors and thousands more under review.
Investors had deposited about $5.5 billion with Stanford, and so far just $72 million has been repaid to investors...

"Inside the Grand Jury: "Why Texas Governor Rick Perry Was Charged With Two Felonies," Murray Waas, Vice, August 16, 2014.

A grand jury indicted Texas governor Rick Perry late yesterday on two felony charges alleging that he had abused his public office and engaged in the coercion of another public official—a district attorney who was investigating Perry’s administration and political backers.

The criminal charges stem from Perry using the official powers of his office as governor to attempt to remove Rosemary Lehmberg, a Travis County district attorney, from office, while Lehmberg was investigating allegations that Perry’s political allies and campaign contributors had received preferential treatment while obtaining grants from a Texas state cancer-fighting agency.

After Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges last year, Perry vetoed a $7.5 million appropriation by the state legislature to fund the Travis County Public Integrity Unit of the district attorney’s office. Perry said he vetoed the funding for the anti-corruption unit because the drunk driving charges proved that Lehmberg was unfit for office—while others viewed the governor’s actions as an attempt to stymie and defund an investigation of many of Perry’s closest political associates as Perry himself was preparing his second run for the presidency...

"Ex SEC Regulator Spencer Barasch Resigns From Lawfirm Amid Questions About His Work for Ponzi Fraudster Allen Stanford,"  Murray Waas, Vice, July 24, 2014.

A former senior Securities and Exchange Commission official, Spencer Barasch, quietly resigned earlier this month as a partner at the Texas law firm Andrews Kurth after facing intensifying scrutiny of his legal work for Houston financier R. Allen Stanford, who is serving a 110-year prison sentence for masterminding a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

Barasch stepped down as Andrews Kurth's head of corporate governance and securities practice not long after a five-part series published by VICE detailed previously undisclosed potential violations of federal conflict-of-interest laws by Barasch while representing Stanford and raised questions as to whether Barasch had given false and misleading testimony to federal investigators to conceal from them the nature of that legal work.

Barasch’s resignation also came shortly after the settlement of a bruising legal malpractice case against Andrews Kurth by a real estate developer. The plaintiff had alleged that his company received substandard legal advice from the law firm because of the firm’s dual representation of the developer and Stanford for the very same real estate transaction...

"The Derailment of the SEC, Part V: "Why a Respected Law Firm Allegedly Risked Breaking the Law Representing a Rogue Billionaire," Murray Waas, Vice, June 18, 2014.

A former Securities and Exchange Commission official and his law firm sought millions of dollars in new legal business in 2006 from financier R. Allen Stanford—during the same period of time the law firm had agreed to defend Stanford before the SEC, despite warnings from the SEC’s ethics counsel that any such representation would be illegal.

Stanford lavished lucrative legal business on former SEC enforcement officer Spencer C. Barasch and the Houston law firm of Andrews Kurth, where Barasch is a partner, to persuade them to defend him before the SEC. Initially, in 2005, Barasch and Andrews Kurth turned Stanford down when he asked them to represent him before the SEC, telling him that to do so would violate federal conflict-of-interest laws. In 2006, however, Barasch ignored the legal prohibition and agreed to do so anyway.

Confidential Andrews Kurth billing records show that in 2006, while Stanford was pressing Barasch and Andrews Kurth to defend him before the SEC, Stanford hired the law firm to represent him on seven other legal matters, adding an eighth in 2007. In addition, according to a former Andrews Kurth employee, Barasch told his fellow partners that they stood to earn as much as $2 million a year for defending Stanford before the SEC. Previously, Stanford had been only a relatively modest client for the law firm. Barasch and Andrews Kurth declined to comment for this story.

"Romney Rejected Birth Certificates for Gay Parents," Murray Waas, Boston Globe,  October 25, 2012.

It seemed like a minor adjustment. To comply with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2003, the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics said it needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The box for “father” would be relabeled “father or second parent,’’ reflecting the new law.

But to then-Governor Mitt Romney, who opposed child-rearing by gay couples, the proposal symbolized unacceptable changes in traditional family structures.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word “father’’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in “second parent,’’ in ink...
"No Menton of 'Transgender' 'Bisexual' Under Romney," Christopher Rowland and Murray Waas, Boston Globe, June 12, 2012.

Former governor Mitt Romney’s administration in 2006 blocked publication of a state antibullying guide for Massachusetts public schools because officials objected to use of the terms “bisexual’’ and “transgender’’ in passages about protecting certain students from harassment, according to state records and interviews with current and former state officials.
Romney aides said publicly at the time that publication of the guide had been delayed because it was a lengthy document that required further review. But an e-mail authored in May of that year by a high-ranking Department of Public Health official - and obtained last week by the Globe through a public records request - reflected a different reason.

“Because this is using the terms ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgendered,’ DPH’s name may not be used in this publication,’’ wrote the official, Alda Rego-Weathers, then the deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health....

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Friday, April 05, 2013

Bob Woodward keeps diving into deep end without his helmet.

Comments Woodward just made during a speech Youngstown, Ohio:

He also told an unflattering, but amusing story about sitting next to former Vice President Al Gore at a dinner, saying being with him was “taxing,” and added, “To be really honest, it’s unpleasant.”
Woodward said Gore pressed him on why the journalist didn’t go after Bush, who beat Gore in the 2000 presidential election, over the war in Iraq.
Gore was a former reporter before becoming a politician, and “he thinks he invented [reporting] also,” Woodward joked in reference to an often misquoted statement that the ex-vice president claimed he invented the Internet.

Besides the propriety of just comments, and what it tells us about how thin-skinned Woodward is, the larger point is that Gore was simply right.
Phillies Game 4:  "It was the first time in 238 games Kansas City scored at least 13 runs."

A new feature for this blog:  The Phillies season, one game at a time, in one sentence or less.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Baseball notes: Barry Zito somehow has apparently done a deal with the devil-- to pitch like-- trade places with-- Tim Lincecum. Since Zito and Lincecum play on the same team it's difficult how this deal with the devil helps the Giants exactly.

 The Marlins finally get going. Tough division now, since it is already quite possible that the Phillies, Atlanta, and Nats might win ninety games. The Marlins may win eighty. The only thing preventing this is that teams in the same division play too many games together for this to happen.

We take back Nats Park for an evening-- as it rightfully Philadelphia's anyway. Fifteen more games this season between the two teams. Hopefully I'll get to see Cliff Lee and/or Cole Hamels pitch to Bryce Harper more than once this year.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Doc Halladay wins his 17th against Milwaukee, lowering his ERA to 2.44. Prior to Halladay and Hamels winning the last two straight games against Milwaukee in Milwaukee, the Brewers had been 50-19 at home.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Cole Hamels wins his 14th game against the Milwaukee Brewers tonight and lowers his ERA to 2.60.

They also won the game without Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins in the lineup-- all three out with minor injuries.

Add to that: The Phillies played the Brewers at home. Prior to the game, Milwaukee was 50-19 at home.

Lee, Halladay, and Hamels are now third, fourth, and fifth in ERA in the NL:

NL Earned Run Average
Rank Player ERA
1 J. Cueto, Cin 2.36
2 C. Kershaw, LAD 2.45
3 C. Lee, Phi 2.47
4 R. Halladay, Phi 2.49
5 C. Hamels, Phi 2.60

And this from the Elias Sports Bureau: "It was the Phillies' 17th complete game of the season, the most by any team since the Orioles recorded 17 CGs in 1999."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Best Starting Pitching Staff Ever?

Tonight, the Phillies' fifth starter, a rookie, tonight won his eleventh game.

Vance Worley's record is now 11-1.

It was Worley's ninth straight win. The Phillies have now won Worley's 14 last consecutive starts. That is the most consecutive wins by a Phillies pitcher dating back to when the Phillies won 15 consecutive starts in 1972 when Steve Carlton was pitching. One also has go back almost four decades when a team won consistently with a rookie pitcher throwing. (Wayne Simpson won 14 straight starts for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s.)

The rookie showed some poise too: "The 23-year-old Worley was teetering on a high wire in the sixth inning, when the Braves loaded the bases with no outs. But after a sacrifice fly by Alex Gonzalez tied the game, 2-2, Worley prevented further damage."

The Best Starting Pitching Staff Ever?

From the Elias Sports Bureau:

"Cliff Lee threw his sixth shutout of the season on Monday, tying the highest total by any pitcher over the last 22 seasons; Randy Johnson had six in 1998 (two for Seattle, four for Houston). Lee has allowed two runs in 48 2/3 innings over his last six starts, a 0.37 ERA. Only two other Phillies pitchers, both cream-of-the-crop Hall of Famers, have had an ERA under 0.40 in a six-start span in one season: Steve Carlton in 1972 and Grover Alexander in 1915."

Also from Elias after tonight's game: "Cliff Lee is now 16-7 with a 2.47 ERA; Roy Halladay is 16-5 with a 2.49 ERA. The only other pair of teammates over the past 40 seasons to have at least 16 wins and an ERA under 2.50 on-or-before Labor Day was Pedro Martinez (17-4, 2.22 ERA) and Derek Lowe (18-6, 2.33 ERA) for Boston in 2002."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thoughts on the Phillies: As things stand tonight, the Phillies are 13-6. They are tied with the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians for the best record in baseball.

They have one of the best rotations in the history of the game. A rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt seems more like a child's dream or one of a fantasy team rather than reality.

And so why do I have so much unease about my team? Let's start with the corner outfielders.

The loss of Jason Werth is immeasurable. Two years ago, he hit .268, 39 HR, and 99 RBI. Last year, he hit .296, 27 HR, and 85 RBI-- while also leading the league with 47 2B. Besides his numbers, Werth ran the bases well, played superb defense, but most important of all, hit behind Ryan Howard the last few seasons-- making sure that Howard got some pitches to hit. This season, Howard has so such protection.

Werth is now gone, leaving via free agency to the Washington Nationals.

In the meantime, left fielder Raul Ibanez is a player in decline. In 2009, he hit .272, 34 HR, and 93 RBI. Last year he declined to .275 BA, 16 HR, and 83 RBI, although he also hit 37 doubles. Now at age 39, Ibanez is battling to hit .200, albeit although we are only 17 games into the season. His defense, never stellar, is suffering as well. But still, the team has made no contingency to replace him.

If the team's management is not looking at who can be potentially fill at least one of the team's corner outfielder positions, some fans and sportswriters are. This column on Bleacher Reports discusses who is available. Unfortunately, there is not a lot there.

There are a couple of interesting names bandied around there and elsewhere: Carlos Quentin and Ryan Ludwick. One of them could be a regular outfielder for the Phillies, and bat behind Howard-- giving Howard some protection although not as much as he had when Werth batting behind him. With Quentin or Ludwick filling one outfield position, Dominic Brown (when he comes back from injury), John Mayberry, or Ben Franciso-- we hope-- might fill the other.

The problem is that the team right now is not concerned. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt might yet prove to be the best pitching rotation in the history of the game. But the four aces are making the team complacent.

Ask the Phillies management why they are not more concerned that their two corner outfielder positions are not producing much offense, and their response is that it is less of an issue for them than for other teams because of the four aces. Similarly, ask the Phillies if they are concerned about the prospects of their relief pitching as the season progresses, and they say not to worry because of their aces.

The complacency of having perhaps one of baseball history's best rotation might just turn out to be the team's downfall.

Monday, February 21, 2011