Category: Crime

The US Is an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” says former president

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

Just in case you feel good about the snow job we get on a daily basis from the leaders of the two old parties in the White House and Congress. They fill the air with blather and bluster about our constitutional tradition, free speech in action, the benefits we enjoy as a free people.

It has as much legitimate content as the average infomercial on network TV sold as filler in between fictional cop shows, comedies about fools and so-called reality TV. If you believe any of it – you are the fool.

Jimmy Carter continues to get my vote as the leading ex-president over the last century. He has the courage to tell the truth about everything from our phony foreign policy to criminal behavior in Congress.

Going for a record: 204 mass shootings in 204 days — in 2015, so far


Never Forget

…The headlines all start to sound the same after awhile. Seven people shot inside Louisville nightclub. Four men shot in Suffolk early Sunday morning. Two dead, two hospitalized in Brice Street shooting.

The shootings happen so often, the circumstances become so familiar, that we tune them out. One dead, five injured in west Columbus shooting. Four shot in grocery store ambush. One dead, four injured in Stockton shooting.

Every now and then a particularly heinous crime makes us pause and reflect. Nine dead in shooting at black church in Charleston. Four marines, one sailor killed in attacks on Chattanooga military facilities. Gunman opens fire on Louisiana movie theater.

The Mass Shooting Tracker, a crowd-sourced project of the anti-gun folks at the Guns Are Cool subreddit, lists 203 mass shooting events so far in 2015. Add in the shooting at a Louisiana movie theater last night and you get 204. Incidentally, yesterday was the 204th day of the year…

The Mass Shooting Tracker is different from other shooting databases in that it uses a broader definition of mass shooting. “The old FBI definition of Mass Murder (not even the most recent one) is four or more people murdered in one event,” the site’s creators explain. “It is only logical that a Mass Shooting is four or more people shot in one event.”…

These shootings have become so common that they typically don’t even make national news. Do you remember the four people shot in Cincinnati earlier this month? How about the seven in Cleveland, or the nine in Fort Wayne? Unless you live in these areas, you probably didn’t even hear about them…

Will anything change? Probably not. The Charleston shooting did produce a fruitful national conversation — not on guns, but on the symbolism of the Confederate flag, which the shooter adopted as a banner of his racist beliefs. It took 150 years and a national tragedy for the country to reach something like a consensus on the meaning of a battle flag.

“Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard [mass shootings] the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing,” The Economist wrote in response to the Charleston massacre. “This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.”

Agreed.

Life sentence demanded for company owner who killed 9 with salmonella

Prosecutors recommended a life sentence for a former peanut company owner convicted in September for a salmonella outbreak that killed nine people in 2008.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Thursday recommending Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America, spend the rest of his life in prison. He was convicted on dozens of counts including conspiracy and fraud.

He and his brother, Michael Parnell, were each charged with 76 counts for intentionally shipping out salmonella-laced peanut products. Federal prosecutors said the brothers and Mary Wilkerson — a former quality control manager at the plant — cut corners to boost profits for Peanut Corp. of America.

They were also accused of covering up positive test results for salmonella in their products.

In addition to the nine deaths linked to the peanut products, more than 700 people were reportedly sickened.

William Marler, a Seattle-based food safety lawyer representing the victims told the Wall Street Journal, “it was an extraordinary verdict that could result in an extraordinary amount of time in jail for a food crime.”

Anyone who would commit murder using peanut butter deserves life without parole.

Less tongue-in-cheek, the creep is responsible for the deaths of nine people. I hope he gets what he deserves. And his lawyer deserves some time in jail for preventing a timely trial.

Montana trio applies for wedding license

A Montana man said…that he was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage to apply for a marriage license so that he can legally wed his second wife.

Nathan Collier and his wives Victoria and Christine applied at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings…in an attempt to legitimize their polygamous marriage. Montana, like all 50 states, outlaws bigamy — holding multiple marriage licenses — but Collier said he plans to sue if the application is denied.

County clerk officials initially denied Collier’s application, then said they would consult with the county attorney’s office before giving him a final answer, Collier said…

The county attorney copped out by saying he wouldn’t second-guess the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling…made gay marriages legal nationwide. Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent that people in polygamous relationships could make the same legal argument that not having the opportunity to marry disrespects and subordinates them…

Collier said he is a former Mormon who was excommunicated for polygamy and now belongs to no religious organization. He said he and his wives hid their relationship for years, but became tired of hiding and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show “Sister Wives.”

The three have seven children of their own and from previous relationships.

“My second wife Christine, who I’m not legally married to, she’s put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy,” he said…

Anne Wilde, a co-founder of the polygamy advocacy organization Principle Voices located in Utah, said Collier’s application is the first she’s heard of in the nation, and that most polygamous families in Utah are not seeking the right to have multiple marriage licenses.

“Ninety percent or more of the fundamentalist Mormons don’t want it legalized, they want it decriminalized,” Wilde said.

A federal judge struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law two years ago, saying the law violated religious freedom by prohibiting cohabitation. Bigamy is still illegal.

My friends used to tease me, saying I must believe firmly in marriage – otherwise I wouldn’t do it so often. Still, that describes – to me, anyways – how difficult it is to find really deep compatibility in our society. I don’t know that it’s so different from the past, just that freedom and opportunity are more widely accepted among educated folks.

And, yes, I’d say that’s a benefit – not a problem. My wife and I found each other just over 23 years ago and we get happier the more we know about each other – the more we learn about life and the world together.

Nathan and Victoria and Christine appear to be happy together. They’re not trying to harm anyone or steal from anyone. I don’t think they need to be classified as criminals.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

NYC settles Occupy Wall Street pepper spray lawsuit


Kelly Schomburg screaming in pain after assault by the pig, Anthony Bologna

I don’t think I’ve been angry enough to use the word “pig” to describe a cop in decades. For Anthony Bologna, a deputy inspector in the NYPD, the use is perfectly appropriate.

New York City has reached a settlement with an Occupy Wall Street protester who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by a city police officer during a peaceful demonstration in 2011.

Debra Lea Greenberger, a lawyer representing protester Kelly Schomburg confirmed that the city agreed to settle the suit for $50,001, in addition to yet-to-be-determined legal fees.

The settlement provides a “measure of justice that was a long time coming”, Greenberger told the Guardian on Tuesday…

Schomburg, who was 18 years old at the time, was among protesters who were maced, corralled and then arrested during a 2011 demonstration against economic inequality in New York. She is now 22.

A viral video from the September 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstration captured the incident. In the video, a New York police officer, later identified by the hacktivist group Anonymous as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, pepper-sprays a group of protesters fenced in by orange netting. These images helped galvanize support for the movement.

Several protesters filed lawsuits in response to the NYPD’s crackdown on the protest movement. In total, Bologna’s actions have cost taxpayers $382,501 through settlements from at least seven lawsuits…

The NYPD responded by reprimanding Bologna for violating police department guidelines and docking him 10 vacation days…

I compliment the bravery of Kelly Schomburg – not only in her confrontation with the forces of political evil in NYC under the “benevolent” conservative, Mike Bloomberg – but, carrying on the fight to victory in the courts.

We all get the bill for police brutality


Click to enlargePat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal

The death of James Boyd in Albuquerque

The cost of resolving police-misconduct cases has surged for big U.S. cities in recent years, even before the current wave of scrutiny faced by law-enforcement over tactics.

The 10 cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million last year in settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48% from $168.3 million in 2010…

Those cities collectively paid out $1.02 billion over those five years in such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment. When claims related to car collisions, property damage and other police incidents are included, the total rose to more than $1.4 billion…

City officials and others say the large payouts stem not just from new cases, but from efforts to resolve decades-old police scandals. In 2013 and 2014, for example, Chicago paid more than $60 million in cases where people were wrongfully imprisoned decades ago because of alleged police misconduct.

For some cities, the data show that cases have gotten more expensive to resolve. Philadelphia police have faced criticism for numerous shootings in recent years. Last year, the city settled 10 shooting cases for an average of $536,500 each. In 2010, it settled eight for an average of $156,937. A city lawyer attributes the rise to a few large settlements, not a pattern of questionable shootings…

The rationales for increased costs – coming from police departments and city lawyers – IMHO are crap. Covering their pasty butts, trying to hide from responsibility.

For most of the police departments surveyed by the Journal, the costliest claims were allegations of civil-rights violations and other misconduct, followed by payouts on car collisions involving the police. Misconduct cases were the costliest for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Baltimore…

The data don’t indicate whether cities are settling such claims more quickly, but some recent cases suggest that might be happening, especially in cases involving video.

In April, less than two weeks after a news helicopter captured video of sheriff’s deputies in San Bernardino County, Calif., kicking and beating Francis Pusok , the county reached a $650,000 settlement with him. Mr. Pusok had been trying to escape from the deputies on a horse he allegedly stole. He hadn’t filed a lawsuit at the time of the settlement and still faces charges.

“They wanted this to go away fast,” says Sharon Brunner, a lawyer for Mr. Pusok, who is fighting the charges. A spokesman for the county said the quick payout was made to avoid costly litigation…

The same is true of New York City under their new mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Not all the departments surveyed showed an increase in misconduct payouts. Phoenix, Los Angeles and Baltimore, for example, showed declines. But insurers and lawyers who defend police say current scrutiny of law enforcement is broadly affecting the resolution of lawsuits.

According to Joanna Schwartz’s study at UCLA, which tabulated civil-rights payouts in 44 large police and sheriff departments from 2006 through 2011, Albuquerque, NM, paid out the most per officer—more than $2,000 a year over that time…

Last October, the city agreed to change how its officers use force in a settlement it reached with the Justice Department, which said it found a widespread pattern of excessive and sometimes lethal force by officers.

Albuquerque officials say the city has been bracing for more settlements and has had to allocate funding it could have spent on raises for employees, parks and other municipal projects to cover the payouts in police cases.

There’s no magic source of blue money to cover increased costs from police department screw-ups. Every ounce of social corruption – from racism, contempt for civilians, ignorance of citizens’ rights, disrespect for constitutional protection – adds up as a charge against the whole budget for every municipality.

You and I get the bill.

Cancer Doctor gets 45 years in prison for healthcare fraud

A Michigan oncologist who gave $35 million in needless chemotherapy to patients — some of whom didn’t even have cancer — will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

After an emotional week of testimony from 22 of his victims, a federal judge sentenced physician Farid Fata to 45 years in prison, NBC News reported. He’ll also give up $17.6 million in cash, according to The Detroit News. Various sources put his full scam around $35 million.

Fata scammed more than 500 of his patients, according to court papers cited by NBC, either by misdiagnosing them just so he could bill healthcare companies or giving chemo to end-of-life patients who wouldn’t benefit and had to endure the treatment’s nasty side effects during their final days.

“They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed them,” Fata told US District Judge Paul Borman, during his sentencing…Fata pleaded guilty in September to 16 counts, including fraud and money laundering…

The FBI also alleges that after one patient fell and hit his head in Fata’s office, the doctor told him he should complete chemo before going to the hospital, according to the AP. The patient reportedly died from his head injury.

US Attorney Barbara McQuade described Fata’s behavior as “the most serious fraud case in the history of the country,” while Judge Borman described his crime as “huge” and “horrific,”…

Maybe the most serious individual doctor-perpetrated fraud. We are, after all, a nation awash in fraud. Even fraudulent cases of accusations of fraud – as witness the Republican Party’s policy of preventing seniors, students and minority citizens from voting in the name of fraud prevention where fraud hasn’t been proven to exist.

The rare prosecution of thugs like Bernie Madoff illustrates that serious financial fraud is still profitable enough to be a national industry. Further validated by the lack of prosecution of mortgage fraudsters who kicked off the Great Recession.

Still, it warms the cockles of my heart to see a creep like Fata get what essentially is a death sentence. Let him die in prison instead of falling over from a heart attack at his favorite country club.

NYC settles Eric Garner case for $5.9 Million

New York City reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner on Monday, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful death claim over his killing by the police on Staten Island last July…

The agreement, reached just a few days before the deadline to file suit, headed off one potentially fractious legal battle over Mr. Garner’s death even as a federal inquiry into the killing and several others at the state and local level remain open and could provide a further accounting of how he died.

Still, the settlement was a pivotal moment in a case that has engulfed the city and the Police Department since the afternoon of July 17, 2014, when two officers approached Mr. Garner as he stood unarmed on a sidewalk and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes.

The death of Mr. Garner, 43, followed by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August, set off a national debate about policing actions in minority communities and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.

Mr. Garner’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — repeated 11 times as one officer held him in a chokehold, became a national rallying cry. A Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, fueled weeks of demonstrations…

“The City of New York has agreed to pay $5.9 million to resolve the Garner case,” said Jonathan C. Moore, the lawyer for Mr. Garner’s family…

The resolution is among the biggest reached so far as part of a strategy by the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, to settle major civil rights claims even before a lawsuit is filed. Mr. Stringer has said the aim is to save taxpayers the expense of a drawn-out trial and to give those bringing the suits and their families a measure of closure.

…The settlement did not provide any greater clarity on the actions of the officers that day or the policing strategies that have come under criticism in the year that has followed…

The city medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, citing the chokehold and the compression of Mr. Garner’s chest by other officers who held him down.

Several inquiries into Mr. Garner’s death were still pending, including investigations by the United States attorney’s office, the Civilian Complaint Review Board and state health officials, who are looking into the actions of emergency medical responders in treating Mr. Garner.

The Police Department has concluded its internal investigation but has yet to say whether any officers would be disciplined.

IMHO, the relationship between most American police departments and the communities they’re supposed to serve is a criminal farce. That criminality is doubled and tripled when victims are non-white and other minorities.

In general, too many coppers behave like they are above the law – they are judge, jury and executioner. And if a confrontation involves a non-white civilian the operative word is executioner.

Yes – there are good cops. I’ve known more than a few including members of my extended family. If they stand up for honest community relations, too often, they get screwed over for doing just that.