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We Should All Start 'Taking Responsibility' for our Transgressions

Wells Fargo's Stumpf leads the way


Hey Americans! Let's all start taking responsibility for what we do wrong. Let's all start being accountable for our actions or our lack of action.

John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation's biggest "too-big-to-fail" banks, is showing us the way in to this bright new stand-up world.

When the government discovered that his bank had since as long ago as 2011 been boosting its bottom line by creating millions of credit card accounts in the name of but behind the backs of existing Wells Fargo clients, and then running up charges on those accounts, charging the unawares named holders of the cards late fees and interest for those charges, it slapped the bank with a $185-million fine. But as with prior criminal behavior by the nation's biggest banks (think Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase), it didn't indict any bank executives this time either.

But hey, this John Stumpf is a stand-up guy. He has told the media and the Senate Banking Committee that he takes "full responsibility" for the gigantic defrauding of the country's third largest bank's customers, and says that he is "accountable" for the high-pressure sales tactics demnded of low-level bank salespeople to make them produce sales of bank products -- the policy that led over 5300 of those employees to set up the fraudulent accounts.

But here's the beautiful thing: Standing up and saying "I take full responsibilty" and "I'm accountable" is really easy! You don't have to actually do anything and nothing happens to you! In fact, Stumpf admitted under questioning by Senate Banking Committee member Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, that he earned $19.3 million last year alone, $ 4 million of that a bonus for doing such a fine job of running the operation -- this in a year in which the bank and its board of directors was well aware that it was being investigated for the gigantic fraud. "Taking responsibilty" and being "accountable" doesn't apparently involve actually taking responsiblity or being accountable, as in stepping down from one's lucrative post as CEO, much less leaving one's firm. It doesn't apparently even mean taking a pay cut. Pretty neat really.

That's not true though for the thousands of employees who engaged in the actual act of creating the fraudulent charge accounts. They have all been fired by the bank, no doubt at Stumpf's direction. They took a substantial paycut for their criminal behavior, which one might say is a kind of "taking responsibility" for what they did, though perhaps they didn't do it voluntarily.

Model stand-up guy John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo BankModel stand-up guy John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo Bank

Don-The-Con's Record of Discrimination Undermines His Outreach to Blacks

Trumping bigotry


The other Big Story from the recent press conference Donald Trump held at his new luxury hotel in Washington DC was not related to what Trump said about the bigoted "Birther" issue that Trump exploited for years to burnish his brand as a political player.

That other Big Story, missed by the news media, was what Trump did not say about his professed outreach to African-Americans -- those tagged by Trump as “The Blacks.”

During that press conference where Trump blithely backed away, sort of, from the ‘Birther’ claim that President Obama was not born in America, Trump did not use that occasion to brag about the benefits black construction companies and black workers obtained from his $200-million luxury hotel project.

A Trump announcement that detailed how black businesses and workers benefited from his luxury hotel project could have boosted Trump’s recent campaign claims that he cares about “The Blacks.”

Protestor outside of Trump Tower in New York City with item to handle dung spread by The Donald. LBW PhotoProtestor outside of Trump Tower in New York City with item to handle dung spread by The Donald. LBW Photo

However, self-described billionaire businessman Trump’s historic record of failing to do business with black businesses undermined even this serial false-claim-maker from falsely proclaiming blacks received benefits from the renovation project that produced Trump’s latest luxury hotel.

The fact that the Washington, DC area is home to large numbers of qualified black construction companies and black construction workers did not prompt news media inquiries about the paucity of blacks involved with Trump’s multi-million dollar hotel project typified news media failings on issues involving race/racism.

Trump’s alleged outreach to African-Americans is yet another example of the charade that parades as Trump’s presidential campaign. This charade gains traction by shallow and unquestioning coverage in mainstream news media. The same news media that have dutifully extended coverage to Trump’s belated claims that he dislikes high unemployment rates among minorities did not question the literal Black-Out on Trump’s hotel project.

Digging Up Truth With a Teaspoon

An Essay In Search of Justice

When he ran for president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte was a mini Donald Trump shooting from the hip to excite populist mob support for his presidential candidacy. Once in office, he followed up on his bloodthirsty rhetoric by encouraging a death-squad sweep through the island nation that has so far accounted for over two thousands assassinations or executions, whichever term one likes. Reports describe bodies appearing in the streets every morning with signs attached to them suggesting they were drug addicts or dealers -- gruesome echoes from the late 70s and early 80s in El Salvador. Dubbed Dirty Harry in the tabloids, President Duterte applauds the piling up of corpses and deems his program a success because drug users are turning themselves in in droves, lest they be murdered. They end up jammed into overcrowded hell-holes. Some end up dead anyway.

President Obama at the meeting in Vientiane and President Duterte on a tearPresident Obama at the meeting in Vientiane and President Duterte on a tear

As the “leader of the free world,” President Obama was touring Asia shilling for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He was eager to “send a clear message that, as a Pacific nation we [the United States] are here to stay.” He planned on visiting Duterte in the Philippines to scold the new leader on his murderous campaign, but he canceled that visit when Duterte gave a saliva-spitting speech in which he called the president “a son of a whore.” Given his small island nation is a client state of the powerful United States, after his insulting speech, the volatile Filipino president reportedly began to suffer painful migraine headaches. President Duterte has called many people “a son of a whore,” including the Pope; and while hijo de puta in Spanish (as spoken in the Philippines) means son of a whore, it’s such a common expression it probably should be translated into English as son of a bitch. A prudent, cool-headed Obama shook off the choice insult. That is, he didn’t respond by calling Mr. Duterte a fish-eating wog or a psychopathic lunatic. Instead, the two men “exchanged pleasantries” at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Vientiane, Laos. (Since then, a hitman has testified that while Duterte was mayor of Davoa for over 20 years he led a death squad there and even ordered some killings. The female legislator who organized that hearing has been tossed out of the legislature.)

These 9/11 Heroes Fought Against Terrorism a Century Before 2001

Freedom as farce

A Pennsylvania State historic marker dedicated to heroes of 9/11 stands near a bend in a road that cuts through rural farm fields sixty miles west of Philadelphia, the city famous for Independence Hall and other fabled sites associated with the birth of the United States.

This marker does not honor the persons killed in the crash of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 near Shanksville, Pa, a small community about 180-miles west of the small community where this marker stands.

However, this marker does recognize heroes who battled terrorism, albeit the persistently denied yet deadly domestic terrorism that predates America’s “War on Terror” launched in the wake of the September 2001 attacks.

This marker commemorates the Christiana Riot – a deadly clash at a farmhouse where a Maryland slave owner died during an armed skirmish with African-Americans who lived in the small Lancaster County village of Christiana.
Christiana Riot historic marker.  LBW PhotoChristiana Riot historic marker. LBW Photo
The slave owner came to Christiana to reclaim his ‘property’ – three of the four black men who escaped from that slave owner two years before the clash. African-Americans blocked this attempted re-enslavement effort.

Federal Judge finds 8th Amendment Violation in Pennsylvania’s Refusal to Treat Mumia’s Hep-C

A win and a loss, at least for the time being


Depending on how you look at it, lawyers for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia journalist and political prisoner serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison after a controverial 1982 conviction for killing a white Philadelphia police officer, won a huge victory, lost big or maybe won and will win again soon.

His victory, a finding issued on Sept. 1 in Scranton, PA by Federal District Judge Robert Mariani that the state’s Department of Corrections “protocol” for treatment -- actually for non-treatment -- of inmates with deadly Hepatitis C cases, violates the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, if upheld on appeal at the Appellate Court level, could open the door for thousands of the state’s inmates with Hep-C to receive the latest highly effective but extremely costly medicines that could eradicate the virus from their bodies. It could also serve as a powerful precedent to win such treatment for the tens of thousands of infected inmates in the sprawling web of other local, state and federal prisons across the entire US who are currently being denied care for what has been called a prison epidemic of Hepatitis C.

Abu-Jamal’s loss, on a minor and correctable technicality, means that his own raging Hep-C infection, first discovered over a year ago, will continue to go untreated with those medications, meaning his liver will continue to suffer further irreversible damage from the disease -- damage that could, if allowed to continue untreated, amount to an extrajudicial execution despite his having already had his original death sentence overturned as unconstitutional.

Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, an anti-death penalty organization, filed the lawsuit on Abu-Jamal’s behalf in August 2015 seeking a preliminary injunction to force the DOC to provide life-saving new anti-viral drugs to him to treat and cure the Hep-C wracking his body. He says that the reason the judge gave for denying that request was that the suit had not properly named the individuals in the Department of Corrections responsible for determining whether a prisoner would or would not receive treatment.

Mumia in 2013 and in 2015, showing the ravages of the Hep-C infection he contracted in the interimMumia in 2013 and in 2015, showing the ravages of the Hep-C infection he contracted in the interim

Critics' Ignoring of Documented Record of Police Abuse in Frisco Proves Kaepernick Right

No context is pretext

A month before the police union in San Francisco sent a blistering letter to NFL officials recently demanding that the professional football league apologize for the “ill-advised” criticisms of police by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick that union was the target of scathing criticism for supporting police misconduct.

That criticism of the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association came in a report from a panel that conducted a yearlong investigation into policemen in that city caught sending racist, sexist and homophobic text messages. One member of that blue ribbon panel, a retired judge, blasted the police union for having established an “ugly” tone that infected the entire police department.

The same San Francisco police union that has lambasted civilians for not cooperating with police to solve crimes had directed its members to stiff-arm that panel through refusal to cooperate in the text message investigation. That racist texting scandal has produced the dismissal of over a dozen criminal cases and a reinvestigation of thousands of other cases for possible bias by those texting cops.
San Francisco police officials found no fault in 33 fatal police shootings over 14-years. LBW PhotoSan Francisco police officials found no fault in 33 fatal police shootings over 14-years. LBW Photo
Salient facts about the sordid history of abusive policing in San Francisco are generally missing from most of the fevered reactions in the news media over Kaepernick’s actions around America's national anthem.

A 1998 report on police brutality in America conducted by Human Rights Watch stated police officials in San Francisco had failed to hold abusive officers “accountable.” Abusive policing in San Francisco, historically, has ravaged blacks and Latinos disproportionately according to repeated reports.

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If there are that many people who really recognize the importance of the journalistic work we are doing, and who have come to rely on us, we would hope that there would also be an understanding of the importance of supporting that work financially.

As you surely know, the ThisCantBeHappening! Collective is not a paid or funded organization. We all do this work out of a commitment to write and get out into the larger media news stories and commentary that are simply not being written by not just the corporate media, but even the alternative media. You will not, for example, see our stories being picked up and run by such mushy liberal sites as Truthout or Huffington Post. Even Common Dreams has not run one of our pieces in almost six months. We do get picked up regularly by Counterpunch, Nation of Change, Smirking Chimp and other edgier sites, so we know we're getting pretty wide impact with the journalism we do.

Some of you donate, often generously, and we thank you. But the truth is we don't get much at all in the way of financial support from most of our readers -- even you regulars.

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

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.

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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