Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Guess the Party!

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Hey, gang, let’s play a game. It’s called “Guess the Party!” Oh, come on! It’ll be fun! The rules are simple. You read the story of a politician in legal trouble and try to guess whether said politician is a “culture of corruption” Republican or of some other party that is not the “culture of corruption” Republican Party. Okay, let’s play!

The young mayor of Detroit has been trying hard to take out of the news the sexual pecadillos and subsequent difficulties of New York governors. Apparently, he’s had an affair and he’s been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice regarding it. I am no more concerned about mayor Kilpatrick’s alleged sexual conquests than I’ve been with those of the various governors of New York or past presidents of the United States. My interest here is this: Corey Williams of Associated Press has written a 300 plus word article chronicling the issue and not once mentioned the party affiliation of Mayor Kilpatrick. Has AP ever written a story about a Republican in legal trouble without identifying the party affiliation in the lead paragraph?

Why is it that, when a politician who is not a “culture of corruption” Republican get’s into legal trouble, reporters lose all interest in party affiliation but when “culture of corruption” Republicans do, it is the first and most vital piece of information about which the reader must be informed? I’m stumped.

By the way, mayor Kilpatrick is a member of one of the two major political parties but is not a “culture of corruption” Republican…but you’ll have to look somewhere other than this article to find that out.

Now wasn’t that fun?

Fox News: Tool of The Devil, Tool Of The Right

Friday, March 21st, 2008

News? You be the judge:

“Icky?” Karl Rove is a happy man every time he has lunch with Rupert Murdoch.

The House That Wouldn’t Bend Over

Friday, March 14th, 2008

You Go Democrats! For the next two weeks at least, America’s telecom executives will be just as accountable to the law as the other 300 million of us. What a concept! Why should a few VIPs have a law that specifically prevents them from ever being sued? I don’t know anybody who has that kind of permanent protective cocoon wrapped around them. Do you? We’re a nation of laws; well, for two more weeks anyway.

It didn’t exactly take an act of blind courage for Congress to stand up to a cerebrally-challenged alcoholic president with single-digit approval ratings. But still, with all the bending and gyrating this Congress has been doing, it’s a huge relief that, for one fleeting moment, they actually stood up and said “No!”

Savor the moment. There’s no doubt, our petulant child king will be bringing this subject back for another vote, and another vote, again and again and again until he gets his way. You can’t say “No” to a scion of the Bush Crime Family. It’s just not done.

I forget where I read this, but somebody was making an excellent point: there’s something huge going on behind the scenes that’s making these Conservatards keep pushing and pushing and pushing and grandstanding and pleading and shouting for retroactive telecom immunity. Our bribery system doesn’t usually work like this. Generally, a congressperson gets a bribe from a certain industry, and he/she is instructed to vote accordingly. And that’s all.

Getting bribed isn’t supposed to require months and months of pleading and threatening and foaming at the mouth every time a TV camera appears. WTF is going on here? Probably a lot more than we’ll ever know.

This other story is sort of along those same lines — government secrecy, things we’re not supposed to know, etc. The Pentagon has completed a study which shows there was no connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Uh, that was one of our main reasons for invading Iraq five years ago (along with those non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction). For a full year before the invasion we heard nothing but “Saddam al Qaeda Hussein bin Laden 9/11 Iraq Saddam bin Laden Iraq al Qaeda…”

And now that there’s a Pentagon report showing that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Reichstag Fire September 11th attacks, we the lowly peons — whose tax dollars paid for this invasion — are not entitled to know about it. The Pentagon has been instructed not to release this report, and the report is not available online.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

An Urgent New Drug Problem!

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

For those of us whose purpose in life is to guard America’s morals — our work is never done. We already have our hands full fighting off the Homosexual Agenda and the Devil’s Music. And now there’s a dangerous new drug from Mexico, just waiting to seduce our youth and sap their moral fiber.

Salvia Divinorum is a hallucinogenic plant that grows in Mexico. And now Americans are starting to use it. Don’t you understand what this means???

A Mexican drug coming into the United States — symbolically, this represents gangs of swarthy Meskins invading our decent Godfearing nation. These lazy hopheads will destroy everything America stands for.

Most of our politicians are unaware of this serious problem. They’re too busy whining about the war in Iraq and our crumbling economy. But fortunately, a Florida state representative is coming to our rescue. Mary Brandenburg has introduced a bill to make possession of Salvia a felony — five years for any dope fiend caught with this drug.

But this isn’t enough. Prison sentences need to be longer than that. And the American people need to be made aware of the hideous effects of this drug. This new menace will destroy anybody who uses it. An ordinary decent American who uses this drug will turn into a pervert; a monster!

We need to spread the word. Perhaps we could make a documentary: Salvia: Assassin of Youth.

What? Nothing yet on the Spitzer scandal? [Edit: I see I’m not the first]

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Very well then, allow me to be the first [Edit: I see someone beat me to posting on this.]. It is being reported that Eliot Spitzer, Democratic Governor of New York, has been ‘caucusing’ with some pretty high class and expensive prostitutes. When I say expensive, I mean in the $1,000 and $5,500 per hour, $50,000 per week-end range. He at least has the decency to avoid the “wide stance” style defense and is considering resigning. He’s made his apologies. Spitzer hasn’t been charged with a crime, yet, although, depending upon how he paid for the services, he could be charged with a crime worth up to five years in prison if he attempted to conceal the source and purpose for the payment, which I think it likely that he almost certainly would have done. The question is, what now?

Can he — should he — stay in office? Of course if he committed a crime, even if he’s not indicted for it, he probably will have to resign. After all, as chief executive for New York, he’s the guy at the head of setting policy for prosecutions and the administration of justice in the state. How would it look to have someone who committed a crime while in that position to stay in office. And, of course, if he’s convicted of a crime, he’ll be forced to resign or be impeached as I doubt he can run the state from his prison cell.

But what if he committed no crime? After all, presidents have engaged in sexual daliances while in office — Kennedy and Clinton spring immediately to mind but they certainly don’t exhaust the list — why should governors resign just because they’ve been caught in extra-curricular activities? Spitzer isn’t even splitting hairs over what the definition of ‘is’ is.

This also raises the question, peripherally, of whether prostitution should be illegal at all? The Libertarian in me says “No” but the Christian moralist in me says “Yes.” The ‘we mustn’t enact Christian morals into law in a secular nation’-ist in me says “I’m not sure that there aren’t sufficient societal harms involved in prostitution to keep it illegal even without questions of religious scruple but it’s possible that those societal harms aren’t mostly the result of its being illegal” so I just don’t know.

Anyway, what do you all think?

“Let the Buyer Beware”

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Predatory lenders have caused a record number of home mortgage foreclosures. Credit card firms are extorting millions of dollars in “penalties” from customers who have never made a late payment or gone over their credit limit. Insurance companies are weaseling out of billions of dollars’ worth of claims, using the zaniest excuses imaginable. And you’re paying hidden fees and surcharges every time you rent a car, stay in a hotel, go to the bank, sign up for a new phone service (or cable TV or Internet service), deposit money in your retirement account…

And yet Libertarians and rightwing Republicans keep insisting that there’s no problem here. This is capitalism, Buddy; the free market. Caveat Emptor. That stupid mouthbreathing retard should’ve read the fine print.

Riiight.

What the fuck are we devolving into? A company can hide a booby trap on page 37 of a contract — written in legalese in a size .01 font — and it’s up to the customer to spend several hours poring over the contract with a magnifying glass.

How far does this “logic” go? Is it legal to sell fake Rolexes on the street for $200 apiece? After all, if some dumbfuck is gullible enough to buy one — cool!

Auto repair shops should be allowed to use the cheapest shoddiest parts they can find and then tell you they used the highest quality components money can buy (and charge you accordingly). Hell, why even make them work on your car at all? They can just tell you they did it and then charge you $1,200 for the work they didn’t do. Hey, if you’re suspicious, just look under the hood and check it out for yourself. What, you want some big fluffy drooling Nanny State hovering over you??

And why is it against the law to assault or mug someone? When you’re walking down the street, it’s up to you to be aware of your surroundings and be ready and able to fend off any would-be attacker. If a person is oblivious or preoccupied, and/or too feeble to defend him/herself — hey, easy pickings!

People get thrown in jail when they try anything mentioned in the previous three paragraphs. And when slippery businesspeople mug their customers with deceptive practices and fine print, they belong in jail too. And throw the key away.

The Biggest Fascist Paramilitary You Never Heard Of

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Ever heard of Infragard? Well, I hadn’t, until I opened the March 2008 issue of The Progressive. We should have, though, should have heard a lot about it.

Infragard consists of 23,000 private industry officials, organized into 86 chapters overseen by the FBI, who act as intelligence sources for the Bureau and the Homeland Security Department, in exchange for getting “near-daily updates” on terrorist threats before the rest of us and, as The Progressive learned, sometimes before elected officials. According to its website, www.infragard.net, “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in Infragard,” and an Infragard executive reports that “Infragard members have contributed to about 100 FBI cases.”

Here’s what may be the best part: according to Matthew Rothschild, author of the Progressive article, “One executive, who showed me his Infragard card, told me they have permission to ‘shoot to kill’ in the event of martial law.”

The second-best part: because these people are in the private sector rather than government, the administration uses the trade secret exemption to bar the release of information about the Infragard program under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Now, there’s nothing wrong, and a lot that’s right, with either individual citizens or businesses giving information on crimes and terrorism to the police and other elements of the government. But that process should be transparent (allowing, of course, for anonymity for witness protection).

But this is different. With Infragard we have big corporations deputized as something like an old west posse, but those corporations have access to lots of information about the rest of us ordinary schmoes that is not supposed to be in the public domain. There’s a good chance that includes the people who hold our mortgage, car, and credit card loans if we have them, manage our health insurance, and sell us books, videos, plane tickets, recreational activities, and just about everything else.

And the sheriff has a recent history of going on illegal fishing expeditions through the private affairs of regular citizens not because they’re suspected of anything in particular, but just because you never know what us untrustworthy citizens might be up to – especially if we belong to groups that express disagreement with BushCo’s behavior, like the Quakers, or the ACLU, or a lot of the writers at this and other progressive blogs.

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” That quote is usually attributed to Benito Mussolini; he never really said that, but it does seem to sum up the essence of fascism as practiced in a number of countries, and it seems to be a pretty close description of Infragard.

And don’t think we’ll automatically be able to breathe a big sigh of relief if a Democratic administration takes office 327 days from now – the executive branch, and its functionaries, seem to like to accrue power and hate to give it up, regardless of party. After all, they know that they can trust themselves to use it only for reasons that meet with their own approval. This administration has indeed been cruder and more aggressive about it than most, but both parties have overseen way too many witch hunts. It’s the corruption of power, not of any particular party or left-wing or right-wing orientation. In fact, Infragard was started under the Clinton administration, although it has expanded quite a bit under Bush.

So next time there’s a big terrorist attack in the U.S., or another major natural disaster like Katrina, don’t be too surprised if you see Wal-Mart and Bank of America managers, along with Blackwater’s boys, rolling down your street packing iron. After all, if that’s what it takes to keep Osama from taking away our civil liberties…

The Price Of Economic Inequality?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

A report on the rising number of incarcerated Americans provides a disturbing look at the unspoken impact of economic inequality and the high cost we pay for perpetuating it. At the same time, during each election cycle, politicians from both parties accuse each other of practicing suspect fiscal discipline.

For this discussion, I want to look at the costs of incarceration in relation to providing universal health care as well as the Bush tax cuts. Time and again, the GOP points out the exorbitant costs that might be associated with providing universal health care. From what I’ve read, the plans being pushed by Senators Clinton and Obama are reported to cost 10 to 15 billion dollars annually. That’s a big expense…but before one concludes we can’t afford it, one must consider the burgeoning costs of incarceration and the distribution and impact of the Bush tax cuts.

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

NEW YORK — For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America’s rank as the world’s No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.

Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 - one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it’s more than any other nation.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

So in the course of 20 years, we have increased our annual corrections spending by a whopping $38 billion dollars. That is roughly three times the projected annual cost to provide universal health care…health care that would help elevate the very people who are disproportionately represented in the prison population. Factor in the following data on the Bush tax cuts and one will begin to see the larger picture.

From MSNBC.com:

WASHINGTON - Since 2001, President Bush’s tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.

The conclusions are stark. The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers — whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 — saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent. The poorest taxpayers saw their taxes fall 16 percent.

Unfortunately, these percentages are deceptive. Let’s look at a practical explanation of what these tax cuts meant to the working poor.

From BusinessWeek.com:

Imagine you are a waitress, married, with two children and a family income of $26,000 per year. Should you be enthusiastic about the tax cuts proposed by President Bush? He certainly wants you to think so. He uses an example of a family like yours to illustrate the benefits of his plan for working Americans. He boasts that struggling low-income families will enjoy the largest percentage reduction in their taxes. The income taxes paid by a family like yours will fall by 100% or more in some cases. This is true–but highly misleading.

President Bush fails to mention that your family pays only about $20 a year in income taxes, so even a 100% reduction does not amount to much. Like three-quarters of working Americans, you pay much more in payroll taxes–about $3,000 a year–than in income taxes. Yet not a penny of the $1.6 trillion package of Bush tax cuts (in reality, closer to $2 trillion over 10 years) is used to reduce payroll taxes. Moreover, should your income from waitressing fall below $26,000 as the economy slows, your family could be among the 75% of families in the lowest 20% of the income distribution that stand to get absolutely zero from the Bush plan.

The President claims that the “typical American family of four” will be able to keep $1,600 more of their money each year under his plan. Since you won’t be getting anything like that, you might be tempted to conclude that your family must be an exception. Not really. The reality is that the President’s claim is disingenuous. Eighty-nine percent of all tax filers, including 95% of those in the bottom 80% of the income distribution, will receive far less than $1,600.

In other words, when a 100% tax cut is the equivalent of $20.00, a family of four might be able to translate that twenty dollars into a meal at McDonalds…one time in 365 days. On the other hand, if one is lucky enough to be in the top one percent (those with $915,000 in pretax income…and first class health care) of earners and receive a 20% tax reduction, I suspect the savings would buy more than one fast food dinner over the course of a year. The skewed advantages…and disadvantages…suddenly become obvious.

If that isn’t bad enough, let’s return to the costs of incarceration and look at future cost projections.

From The New York Times:

By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.

In less than four years, we will spend another $25 billion annually (more than enough to pay for universal health care) to incarcerate more and more Americans…the bulk of which come from the economically underprivileged.

More From The New York Times:

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.

Let me be clear…crime is wrong…and it should be punished. However, we cannot ignore the factors that facilitate crime. Failing to provide opportunities to those most lacking in resources is also wrong…and it often leads to a lack of education and therefore a susceptibility to participating in crimes that are driven by poverty.

We have likely exceeded the point at which it will cost us more to punish and incarcerate those who commit these crimes of poverty than it would have cost us to insure their education, to raise the minimum wage above the poverty level, and to grant them the dignity and peace of mind that comes with knowing one’s family members can receive health care when it is warranted; not just when it is necessary to prevent death.

Instead, under the guidance of the GOP, we have elected to ignore the fact that 47 million Americans lack health care and to focus upon further enriching the wealthiest…all the while being forced to endure asinine arguments that doing so will create jobs and thus facilitate a rising tide to float the boats of all Americans. It simply isn’t true.

At a savings of $20 a year, millions of Americans can’t even buy a seat in the boat…let alone stay afloat by treading water in the midst of the steady deluge of ever more ominous waves. If the number and availability of life preservers continues to dwindle, we are fast approaching the point at which our society will collapse under the weight of the inequity we chose to ignore.

If that happens, it will be as my grandfather argued many years ago, “They can eat you, but they can’t shit you”. The cannibalism has begun. What follows will not be pleasant.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Ripped-Off Customers: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

According to this Business Week article, 2007 might be remembered as the year angry customers started fighting back. We all heard about the 76-year-old woman who came storming into her local ComCast office with a hammer and started swinging. After damaging a keyboard and a phone, she yelled out “have I got your attention now?”

And last Spring a pissed-off Apple customer made a YouTube video of himself smashing his Macbook with a sledgehammer after Apple refused to honor a service warranty. So far over 340,000 people have seen the video. (And Apple has agreed to replace his defective computer.)

The author, Jena McGregor, says: “Consumers already pushed to the brink by evaporating home equity, job insecurity, and rising prices are more apt to snap when hit with long hold times and impenetrable phone trees.”

She uses the term Consumer Vigilante. Even if you don’t settle your grudge with a sledgehammer, more and more people are discovering that there are other options besides sitting there waiting on hold all afternoon because both operators are busy.

The e-mail carpet bomb is becoming more popular.

Last October a National Public Radio host created a website called ComCastMustDie.com. The article has a few other examples of pissed off customers who settled things their own way.

And occasionally the courts come through. A few days ago, one of those slippery HMOs got hit with a crushing left hook to the bank account. In 2004, Health Net canceled a woman’s medical insurance while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was left with $129,000 in unpaid medical bills. A judge has ordered Health Net to repay the $129,000 plus $750,000 for emotional distress and $8.4 million in punitive damages.

As conservatives are always saying, severe punishments are the only way to deter criminals.

Health Net is also being sued by the City of Los Angeles for illegally canceling the health insurance policies of 1,600 other patients. The company had an incentive program: administrators had to meet a certain cancellation quota, and if they exceeded their quota they’d get a bonus. (See, this isn’t just something Michael Moore dreamed up.)

Maybe these are just isolated incidents, or maybe there’s a positive trend. No matter who or what gets elected next November, maybe this 21st Century Gilded Age is starting to wane.

Congress asks the DOJ to investigate Roger Clemens..

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Obviously they have nothing better to do right? No wars, no recession..From MSNBC:

Congress asked the Justice Department on Wednesday to investigate whether Roger Clemens made false statements to a House committee.

The chairman and ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said they sent a letter to Justice.

“We believe that his testimony in a sworn deposition on Feb. 5, 2008, and at a hearing on Feb. 13, 2008, that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone, warrants further investigation,” committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking Republican Tom Davis wrote. “That testimony is directly contradicted by the sworn testimony of Brian McNamee, who testified that he personally injected Mr. Clemens with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.

Christ, even a huge sports nut like me thinks this is pure unadulterated bullshit.


Fish.Travel