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Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy

Unethical antics

 
Even in politics where alarming perversions too often parade as acceptable standards it is pretty astounding for a politician to assert that inadvertent error is the reason for his failure to report receipt of gifts and other free items valued at $160,050 over a five-year period.

Yet, that is the stance Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams took recently when he filed belated annual financial disclosure forms listing nearly ninety items he received including luxury vacations, cash, gift cards, tickets to professional sporting events and a Rolex watch that Williams valued at $6,500.

Williams’ oops-I-forgot-to-file-the-required-forms claim comes from the man who once served as Philadelphia’s Inspector General, the official tasked with pursuing unethical conduct and corruption. Williams was required to complete those disclosure forms listing all gifts he received on an annual basis.
DA Seth Williams (r) with Philly police union presidentDA Seth Williams (r) with Philly police union president
 
The FBI and other federal enforcement authorities are now examining Williams’ receipt of those gifts plus allegations about misuse of his campaign funds and irregularities at a non-profit organization created by Williams, a Democratic. Federal probes of Williams’ activities began months before his belated ethics disclosure filings.

Williams, elected as Philadelphia’s first African-American District Attorney in November 2009, entered office weeks later enjoying high public support. Most Philadelphians expected Williams would fulfill his campaign promises to end unjust practices of his predecessor who was an ardent death penalty advocate who virtually ignored abuses by police from perjury to brutality.

Gotcha!

Belted by Trump

 

Hampton -- Recently, while selecting the appropriate worn and muddy clothes for yard work, I chose a mostly-broken belt that a sensible person would have tossed long ago. To me, however, there was still a shred of usefulness in it so I kept it to occupy the lowest rung of my very short wardrobe ladder. The belt had problems; the holes for the various sizes became seriously enlarged after the first few uses making it barely functional and quite unattractive. As I cinched it, I felt something give, only to discover that one of the two screws that held the buckle to the belt tore through the cheap belt material rendering it now, even to me, totally useless. As I grumbled and inspected the problem, I noticed the brand name proudly displayed on the buckle: Donald J. Trump.

Trump belt bites the dust a week after purchase (photo by Elizabeth Lindorff)Trump belt bites the dust a week after purchase (photo by Elizabeth Lindorff)
 

Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange for Doing What Journalists are Supposed to Do

New York Times soils itself

 

While I periodically have written commentaries dissecting and pillorying news articles in the New York Times to expose their bias, hypocrisy half-truths and lies, I generally ignore their editorials since these are overtly opinions of the management, and one expects them to display the elitist and neo-liberal perspective of the paper’s publisher and senior editors.

That said, the August 17 editorial about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent four harrowing years trapped in the apartment-sized Ecuadoran embassy thanks to a trumped-up and thoroughly discredited political rape “investigation” by a politically driven Swedish prosecutor and a complicit right-wing British government, moves far beyond even the routine rampant bias and distortion of a Times editorial into misrepresentation and character assassination. As such it cries out for criticism.

Headlined “A Break in the Assange Saga,” the editorial starts off with the flat-out lie that “Ecuador and Sweden finally agreed last week that Swedish prosecutors could question Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has been holed up since 2012.”

The casual reader fed only corporate media stories about this case might logically assume from that lead that such an interview has been held up by a disagreement of some kind between Ecuador and Sweden. In fact, Ecuador and Assange and his attorneys have stated their willingness to allow Swedish prosecutors to come to London and interview Assange in the safety of their embassy for several years now. The prosecutor in Sweden, Marianne Nye, who has been pursuing Assange all that time like Ahab after his whale, has not only never taken up that offer, but by her refusal to go to London in all this time, demanding instead Assange’s enforced presence in Stockholm, has allowed any possible rape charges, if any were even appropriate, to pass the statute of limitations. The paper doesn’t mention this. Nor does the editorial mention that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last February found that Assange is effectively being held in arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish governments, and called for his release, and for the lifting of British government threats to arrest him and extradite him if he leaves the safety of the embassy.

Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London fearing extradition to the US on an espionage chargeJulian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London fearing extradition to the US on an espionage charge
 

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The Pentagon Money Pit: $6.5 Trillion in Unaccountable Army Spending, and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades

Not just $600 toilet lids or unusable F-35 fighters

 

UPDATE: A week after this article was originally written and posted on this site, Bridget Serchak, chief of public affairs at the Pentagon's Office of General Inspector, sent us the following supposed explanation of the enormous unaccountable and unauditable 2015 expenditure budget of the US Army, as reported on below. Her explanation of why that budget is somehow stated as being nearly double the entire FY 2015 budget of $3.8 trillion is as follows:
 

"For clarification, these numbers reflect changes made in Fiscal Year 2015...
These adjustments do not adjust the budget amount for the Army. The dollar
amounts are possible because adjustments are made to the Army General Fund
financial statement data throughout the compilation process for various reasons
such as correcting errors, reclassifying amounts, and reconciling balances
between systems. The general ledger data that posts to a financial
statement line can be adjusted for more than the actual reported value of
the line. For example, there was a net unsupported adjustment of $99.8
billion made to the $0.2 billion balance reported for Accounts Receivable"

 

We will let this obtuse "explanation" stand. Clearly, even if Congress -- or someone in Congress -- wanted to police the country's military and see what it is actually doing with the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives and spends each year, they would find it totally impossible to do so, with this kind of "accounting" going on. I took a semester of managerial accounting at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business during a journalism fellowship program once, and I cannot begin to understand what they're saying here. No doubt that's the object.
 

XX

What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.

But how about a report by the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General saying that the US Army had $6.5 trillion in unaccountable expenditures for which there is simply no paper trail? That is 6,500 billion dollars! Have you heard about that? Probably not. That damning report was issued back on July 26 -- two whole weeks ago -- but as of today it has not even been reported anywhere in the corporate media.

Spotting the Havoc Wreaked by Climate Change and Development is, Sadly, a Walk in the Park

It's way too quiet out there

 

I took a long hike today through a local nature preserve. It was a humid 96° F with the heat index, thanks to the humidity making it feel like 110° -- too hot to work on the stone re-pointing job I’m doing on our old stone house. I needed some nature, though, after spending the last few weeks reading and writing about our insane political situation, with Republican Donald Trump, a con artist posing as a fascist and denouncing minorities and immigrants and Hillary Clinton, a Democratic war-monger, corrupt and probably richer than Trump, posing as a people’s advocate.

Mexico-bound Monarch butterfly...but will the butterfly reserve still be there for it?Mexico-bound Monarch butterfly...but will the butterfly reserve still be there for it?
 

Wandering down a path into the woods and following a local stream, though, I found myself getting more troubled than before. These woods, where I’ve walked for years, used to be filled with myriad species of birds -- water birds, hawks, songbirds and others, and insects -- dragonflies, butterflies, bees and flies of all kinds, as well as frogs, turtles and snakes. I’d usually return from such walks to report having seen a Baltimore oriole, a blue heron, a garter or a water snake, a large snapping turtle or one or another kind of hawk. I wouldn’t even report on the butterflies, as they were myriad.

Today though, the forest was quiet. Occasionally I’d hear the sound of some unidentifiable bird, probably a starling or sparrow, but bird sounds were rare. Sightings too. I heard no cries from bluejays or crows, saw no hawks or waterbirds -- not even mallard ducks, and heard no songbirds. I saw one small painted turtle sunning itself on a fallen tree in a dammed up part of the stream -- a spot that used to be covered with turtles on a day like this. And I heard no frogs, which might explain the lack of any herons or other wading birds. The two creatures I did see were a deer (these apex mammals seem to have made the suburbs home, with no available predator except the automobile to diminish their numbers, and with grass and suburban flower gardens providing abundant food) and a beautiful solitary orange Monarch butterfly, which was flying with more purpose, in almost a straight line down the pathway, than I’ve ever seen a butterfly fly (perhaps it is on it’s lonely way to Mexico hoping to find a mate?). Other than that, there were almost no bugs too. That’s really scary, since bugs, besides pollinating plants, provide that basic protein source for most larger animals up the food chain. I had read that bugs of all kinds are in a dramatic decline all around the globe, and it certainly looks like it if they aren’t even pervasive in a nature preserve where there is no insecticide being used, where grass isn’t cut, and undergrowth is left alone.

I had noticed this decline earlier when we were up in the Catskills where we have a summer house. The streetlight in front of our property, which used to be enveloped in literally thousands of moths, flies and flying beetles during late spring and early summer months, to the delight of the brown bats that dove into the cloud again and again filling their bellies each night, these days is devoid of insects, which is astonishing and, when one thinks of it, terrifying.

"There you go again" (Reagan)

 
 
Ok . . .
Ok, this is where I draw the line in the sand.
I don’t even know if this is true,
But I imagine it is.

 
It comes with a true-enough ring to it.
Turning dingoes into time-bombs,
Animals as bombs . . .
Is this really new?

 
Or am I just waking up from a dream
On the porch of a nursing home,
And I am gagging on my spittle
Because I’m dehydrated and
 
Because the sun just cleared the edge of the porch roof
And it is as if someone removed my blindfold
And I find myself bound to a stake
Facing five men pointing rifles at my heart.
 
And everything just came together for me,
In this dream about explosive dingoes.
I’m a Native American about to take a drink from a bottle
And I pour out the first sip to the earth for the ancestors and
 
When the liquid hits the ground it sends up a little puff of dust,
A little mushroom cloud and
Now I am a mother giving birth. I am my mother,
And I’m giving birth to myself.
 

Hypocrisy, The New York Times Version

Trashing Nicaragua's success

 

The New York Times is the best old-style, broad-sheet newspaper in America; it still covers the world with resourceful and enterprising reporters and commentators. But, then, there’s the other New York Times, the imperial rag that prints editorials like the one on August 5 titled “ ‘Dynasty,’ the Nicaraguan Version.” It’s not that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is a saint or even a model democrat; it’s that the editorial department and the writer who penned this sloppy embarrassment are still playing a version of the Reagan Cold War game of the 1980s. Those days are over; one hopes for something a bit more worldly.

President Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo announcing her vice presidential candidacyPresident Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo announcing her vice presidential candidacy

After listing a number of negatives -- the popular President Ortega has appointed judges favorable to his rule and has been able to assure a legislature filled with his allies -- the editorial tells us how well the Nicaraguan economy is doing, how well the Ortega administration works with investors and international business and how safe the place is compared to its three closest neighbors. This safety is, we’re told, due to a sinister “vast police force.” Reading this, one might forget here in the US we have our own “vast” police and criminal justice problems.

Let’s consider for a moment the interesting fact that Nicaragua is notably “safer” than Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. First off, during the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan the United States of America directly supported, and in some cases actually directed, cruel and bloody wars against armed guerrillas (and the poor in whose name they fought) in these three small, poor nations. It was the Cold War, so these wars were couched in East-West (communist-capitalist) terms, when they arguably were more accurately described as North-South struggles: ie. they were about powerlessness versus power, poverty versus wealth.

In the case of Nicaragua, the US Contra War was a proxy war against a sovereign nation. In 1979, the Sandinista rebels had overthrown a dictatorship run by Anastasio Somoza, junior, whose father Anastasio, senior, had been a US ally. Franklin Roosevelt famously said of Somoza, senior, “Somoza’s a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.” In 1956, the father was shot dead eating dinner in a Leon restaurant by a patriotic poet working as a busboy. (Many Nicaraguans aspire to be poets.) Anastasio, junior, took over the family business and ruled as a US ally until 1979, when he fled to Paraguay, where in 1980 his Mercedes was blown apart by an RPG as the climax of a seven-member Sandinista plot called “Operation Reptile.” His unidentifiable remains were buried in Miami following a big funeral of fellow tyrants and right-wing fat cats.

Donald, Hillary and Cannabis: Stoned Stupid On Legalization

Candidates wrong on 'weed'

 
A few hours before the Democrat Party made history on July 26, 2016 with the nomination of the first female to head a major party presidential ticket in America, Ray Lewis stood across from Philadelphia’s City Hall holding a sign that contradicted the position of his previous profession: policeman.

Standing about four miles from the meeting site of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Lewis, a retired Philadelphia Police Department captain, held a sign demanding the legalization of marijuana.

Support for reform of laws criminalizing marijuana is included in the DNC’s Platform. But the legalization advocated by Lewis and millions across America is not a position held by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s official candidate for the 2016 presidential election. Clinton’s vice-presidential pick, Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine also opposes legalization.

Donald Trump, the Republican Party candidate for president, also opposes legalization. Trump has adopted the same ‘Law-&-Order’ campaign mantra of Richard Nixon, the discredited former U.S. President who launched the ‘War on Weed’ in the early 1970s…a few years before Nixon’s unprecedented resignation for serial misconduct. Trump’s VP pick, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, opposes legalization.

Former law enforcer Ray Lewis quickly cited his past experiences as a policeman when asked why he endorses the legalization of the long outlawed marijuana.
 
Ray Lewis - Retired Philadelphia Police Captain   LBW PhotoRay Lewis - Retired Philadelphia Police Captain LBW Photo
 

Seattle's 'Liberals' Get Chance to Finally Start Addressing Police Brutality

Initiative-873 gives small flicker of hope

 

Seattle, WA -- Ever since moving to Seattle it’s become clear to me that though most of its inhabitants identify as liberals, the dominant white culture enables a culture of armchair liberals. When it comes to LGBT rights, Seattle will stand up, but when it comes to addressing issues that actually threaten the comfortable, largely white and privileged population of the Seattle, it’s another story.

In 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court started fining the state government $100,000 a day for continuing to underfund K-12 public education. In 2011, after a 9-month investigation, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice sued the Seattle Police Department for a "pattern of excessive force” that violates the US Constitution and federal law.

This year, Washington has a second chance to address police brutality and in compliance with international human rights laws.


  

As it currently stands, Washington has some of the most feudal police use-of force-laws in the country. It is essentially impossible to prosecute a police officer for murder. As it is currently written, Washington law states that if a police officer kills someone, as long as the cop acted “without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable,” he or she is immune from prosecution. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg stated, “This almost perfect defense to a mistaken use of force has kept police officers out of court as defendants."

In fact, according to an analysis done by the SeattleTimes, from 2005 to 2014, 213 people were killed by police officers in Washington only one of whom has been prosecuted.

Earlier this year, House Bill 2907 was considered which would have struck the “malice” clause from the state law, but it wasn’t even voted on. Frustrated with the lack of action from politicians, an activist group called Washington for Good Policing have proposed Initiative-873, which if passed, will strike the “without malice and with a good faith belief” clause from state law. The initiative will need over 250,000 signatures to get placed on the ballot for general voting.

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut