Following Up and Following Down: November 2022


Traditionally here at Wickersham’s Conscience we wrap up the calendar year with the Hypocrite of the Year contest and WC’s Year in Review series. But before we turn to December, we need to take a look back at a month that, if you will forgive the phrase, was a real turkey. As ever, the Magpie Principle governs topics discussed and absolutely no journalism has been committed.

Cartoonist George Booth died earlier this month. While he was most famous for his cartoons of dogs and cats, WC’s all time personal favorite featured his preternaturally sophisticated cavemen, engaged in parliamentary procedure.

George Booth's Classic

It’s a useful metaphor for the whole process of bankruptcy law, too. For the decades WC has subscribed to New Yorker magazine, the Booth cartoon in most issues was a highlight. Thanks for the delightful and droll cartoons, Mr. Booth.

Alex Jones was nailed for an additional $473 million in damages and punitive damages to the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis awarded the Connecticut plaintiff families over $323 million in common law punitive damages for attorney’s fees and costs and $150 million in damages under a state law called the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, which prohibits unfair competition and deceptive acts. This is in addition to the millions he was ordered to pay in the Texas case, which was recently affirmed by the trial judge. And in addition to the $965 million a jury awarded eight families of Sandy Hook victims and a first responder last month in compensatory damages. No matter how well Jones thinks he has hidden his money, it’s going to be found and seized. WC is pretty certain these damages awards won’t shut Jones up, but it may make him a little more careful.

Elizabeth Holmes, ex-CEO of Theranos, a company that never had a product, only hype, was sentenced following her conviction on four counts of defrauding investors in her failed blood-testing company. She got 11.25 years, followed by three years of supervised release. This is a federal sentence; she’ll serve most of that time. She still faces a restitution obligation, to be set at a later hearing. At the hearing, she said she was very sorry. Too late, too late, too late.

Trump continues to lose lawsuits. In the U.S. Supreme Court last week, Trump lost his bid to keep his federal income tax returns away from the U.S. House. There was never any doubt, whatever Justice Clarence Thomas may have thought. It’s all about stalling, about trying to delay things until the GOP takes control of the House in January. Trump has been stalling for 1,339 days now. That probably counts as a successful strategy in the circumstances. Notably, every court that has considered Trump’s objections has rejected them. And, still, 1,339 days.

Speaking of the SCOTUS, public confidence in the institution continues to slide. Revelations that more than one decision has been leaked to conservative activists, Justice Clarence Thomas’s blatant disregard for elementary legal ethics and the naked zeal of the new, ultra-conservative majority have undermined public confidence in the Court as a neutral arbiter of issues. WC’s instinct is that Justice Samuel Alito is at the heart of the leaks, and his wretched decisions have certainly done him no credit.

Defeated Alaska senator candidate Kelly Tshibaka made noises about contesting the election she lost. She even went out and did some fundraising to support her planned litigation. And has done nothing since. “We’re anticipating a whole bunch of shenanigans here in these next couple months, between now and January, to try and hold on to the Murkowski monarchy,” she said on Bannon’s Warroom, hosted by Steve Bannon, the thuggish former advisor to Donald Trump. “And that’s why I really need your help. Our race is not over and I’m not going to give up this fight.” Hey, Ms. Tshibaka, can we have an accounting for your campaign, including post-elections efforts to shake down donors?

And speaking of losers, a reader noted a positive on the recently re-elected Mike Dunleavy: He makes former Alaska Governors Keith Miller and Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell look pretty good a little less bad. WC grants it’s not high praise.

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi has joined Celsius Network and Voyager Digital on the list of crypto businesses filing bankruptcy in the fallout from FTX’s Chapter 11. It turns out that BlockFi was relying on a $400 million loan from FTX. BlockFi claims to have more than 450,000 retail clients. BlockFi’s fourth largest creditor is . . . the Securities and Exchange Commission, a negotiated fine out of settlement of an earlier BlockFi legal violation.

The Standard Model of particle physics may be showing cracks. WC is uncertain he can explain this briefly, but something called “lepton universality” may be untrue. At the risk of oversimplification to the point of silly, the effects of the weak nuclear force on the three leptons — the electron, the muon and the tau — are all expected to be identical. One of the zoo of subatomic particles, the B Mesons, are unstable, but are decaying in ways that don’t fit thee Lepton Universality of the Standard Model. If you want to explore down into the weeds, a “simplified” explanation is available. If it’s not measurement error – remember quantum physics deals in probabilities so the evidence the Model is “breaking” is a highly improbable measurement. If the disparity – 3.4 standard deviations – holds up to scrutiny, then the Standard Model is wrong. Three quarks for Muster Mark!

And that’s a wrap. WC hopes your turkey was tasteful and the stuffing was spiced just right. For his part, WC remains thankful to his readers.

6 thoughts on “Following Up and Following Down: November 2022

  1. My nominees for Hypocrite of the Year.

    As a group award: the Republican legislators who refused to raise the base student allocation that contributed to the current education operating budget shortfall. Their reasoning? Raising the BSA would constitute “rewarding poor performance”. Shortly thereafter these same lawmakers voted to continue a billion dollars in SB 21 corporate welfare for the oil companies which has failed to “fill the pipe” as promised.

    The individual award: Representative Mike Cronk (R-D36), a member of the aforementioned group of Republican hypocrites who refused to raise the BSA for Alaska’s public schools. Rep Cronk spent a career as a public school teacher in Alaska’s public school system. Rep Cronk will now enjoy a TERS retirement. I wonder how many paychecks and benefits Mike Cronk has turned down in adherence to his principle that one should not reward poor performance.

    Elstun W Lauesen, CEDFP 2139 Solstice Circle Anchorage, Alaska 99503 907-229-4643 elauesen@oz.net “Research. Inform. Communicate”

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