Letter from the Heartland

Jefferson County, KS — It’s too late for Mr. Goldsmith, for former Kansas City, KS Police Detective Max Seifert and hundreds of thousands.

Bank of America and several other giant banks last week announced they are halting foreclosures across many states.

But we have already witnessed our courts turned into vast paper mills churning out foreclosures and lawsuits from credit card companies, the public servants turned into collection agencies for the easy credit vultures preying on the gullible, the desperate and the stupidly poor and greedy–and nobody’s talking about people getting back homes already stolen by those corrupt operations. Ultimately, all we’ve gotten has been a national circular firing squad, without competent leadership or investigators. The institutions once used to punish the violent, or to protect the vulnerable, instead have become a gargantuan legal hammer smashing the lives of millions into what may be years of grinding of poverty.

The explosive revelations on Sept. 30th by Washington Post reporter Ariana Eujung Cha about monster bank JP Morgan, headlined “JP Morgan to halt foreclosures,” comes too little and too late for those already jettisoned from homes for late payments, bankruptcy, job losses or just plain tough times.

Certainly our elected government leaders could have stopped this national madness, and could long ago have started investigating the lenders and their agents who approved and profited from issuing shady loans and then foreclosing on them.

Michael Cadell, "shotgun journalist," raises journalistic hell in his native KansasMichael Cadell, "shotgun journalist," raises journalistic hell in his native Kansas

The Post’s Cha writes:

The bank’s decision will affect 56,000 borrowers in 23 states where allegations of forged documents and signatures and other similar problems are being used to try to overturn court-ordered evictions. Yet the impact may be much broader, given J.P. Morgan’s stature in the industry. If other banks adopt the same approach, the foreclosure process in many parts of the country will grind to a halt.

It should have been halted by our compromised elected government leaders, many of whom benefited from, or helped their buddies in the banks to profit from rigging this “real estate boom” and resulting bubble years ago.

We’ve got wars to fight across the world, and 53 cents of every federal tax dollar goes to pay for a bloated and festering Department of Defense, and yet the billionaires who call themselves “libertarians” want to privatize Social Security, Medicare, etc. There’s always more money to make off the misery of old age and sickness, all the while smearing the Social Security and Medicare, which we all paid into over the years, as “entitlements.” A socially democratic country calls these “entitlements” basic human rights: home, health and education. Not here in Kansas, or in the USA, though, where language itself is morphed and molded to suit the marketing whims of Big Business and its bought-and-paid political lackeys.

The process of throwing people by the tens of thousands from their homes should have stopped a long time ago, but perhaps at least now that many in the commercial real estate business are feeling the crunch too, maybe the club set and the monstrous financial wizards who bundled and rebundled the loans are feeling some heat from their own kind.

It’s too late for many in Kansas, including quite a few here in Jefferson County, who had to suffer the added indignity of having their court judgments printed in the local papers. Yet, now people, having gotten a working-class education on courts, debt and swindlers, may sense the ruthlessness that comes from using cops as bill collectors for loan sharks in fancy offices. The true barbarity of our time is that so many remain distracted by the flashing lights of faux “celebrity news” and faux “reality” television shows, or by the colossal gladiator sport spectacles which are all framed as news, even while their own neighborhoods and Main Streets are being hollowed out.

Until our alienating and alienated society of strangers re-learns little words like “solidarity” and “The Golden Rule,” our Masters of the Universe will just keep on robbing us and using their armed servants to lull us into thinking that suffering through this Great Recession is the “status quo.”

Nobody Cares … in Overland Park, KS

A couple weeks ago, after a stand-off lasting over 28 hours, Overland Park, KS resident Ian Goldsmith was “successfully” evicted from his foreclosed suburban home. It required the application of more than seventy rounds of tear gas, a helicopter, a SWAT team and several squad cars blocking off a neighborhood, to find relief from Mr. Goldsmith’s panicky plunge into debt obligation. Last news we heard, he was still being held on $250,000 bond in the Johnson County Jail in Olathe. His mental health gone even before being jailed, his last refuge of dignity was allegedly to threaten the uniformed bill collectors sent in to throw his person, clothes and toothbrush out onto the curb.

None of this worries Mr. Goldsmith. He may be financially wiped out, his wife gone, unemployed, but as they say in jail, he now has “three hots and a cot.”

Compared to panicked predators at another Overland Park address, that of hedge fund Waddell & Reed, where someone famously pushed the “sell” button and may have been responsible for the mysterious “flash crash” of 1000 points at the New York Stock Exchange last May, Mr. Goldsmith is an insignificant bug. While he was losing his home and his family, the gang at Waddell & Reed was gambling billions of dollars across national boundaries with the flick of their fingers on their computer keyboards.

In nearby Kansas City, KS, a variation of the typical right-wing libertarian refrain goes, “It’s their own fault.”

Well, those weren’t the exact words in an incredible 48-page Sept. 17th judgment issued by the Hon. Judge Julie Robinson of the U. S. District court for Kansas (Case # 04-2320-JAR), but the blame-the-victim mentality all-too-common among law enforcement officers during the Great Recession was nonetheless certainly raked over the coals publicly for all those willing to read the case of Mr. Barron Bowling of Kansas City.

Kansas City Star reporter, Joe Lambe touched on the case in a tiny but stunning article this last Sept. 25th describing the fate of KCKPD Detective Max Seifert, who attempted, according to the judge, to conduct an “honest investigation into a road rage attack by a federal agent.” Now “retired,” but actually more like fired, Seifert exists in all likelihood now just a few months from foreclosure himself, with his pension cut and with little if any health insurance.

Let reporter Lambe tell it like it is:

Seifert exposed the truth about a man who was beaten and charged with a crime after he wouldn’t let an unmarked car pass him on the right.

For crossing ‘the thin blue line,’ U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson wrote, Seifert was forced into retirement.

‘Seifert was shunned, subjected to gossip and defamation by his police colleagues and treated as a pariah,’ Robinson wrote. ‘… The way Seifert was treated was shameful.’”

When a federal judge writes something like that about a number of police officers, somebody should get out of their seat and take notice.

The federal DEA Agent involved, Timothy McCue who while working plainclothes and undercover went into a violent rage because his federal-issued undercover car was slightly damaged by who he called, and according to all parties involved in the court document, a “white trash,” “inbred hillbilly” being the plaintiff, Mr. Barron Bowling. A minor matter, Agent McCue would have had to fill out a damage report and [would have] probably suffered a paper admonition, or at worst [might have been] pulled off undercover work.

Instead Agent McCue, aided by other federal agents, and even more damningly by other high ranking officers in the local police forces, as Judge Robinson alluded, came to be directly and indirectly involved in a loose conspiracy to destroy Bowling and even [those of] their own who attempted an “honest” reckoning.

McCue pistol-whipped, beat with his fists and later while Bowling was handcuffed semi-conscious lying on the ground, kicked him. All done while numerous agents and beat officers looked on, in broad daylight on a hot July day within a school neighborhood with many witnesses watching.

And what came of those officers who later kept their mouths shut, or worse ,destroyed former, now retired KCKPD Detective Seifert’s career?

Again let Joe Lambe run down the calls he made to the individuals involved. It might help to explain the virus running amok among Kansans today:

The case ended with the recent order for the U.S. government to pay Bowling for McCue’s actions, but a previous ruling outlined allegations against the Kansas City, KS Police Department.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS settled its part of the case last year for $425,000, but admitted no liability on conspiracy, malicious prosecution or abuse of process.

Before that settlement, the judge issued the pretrial ruling that described how Seifert was pressured to play along with a cover-up that started soon after the crash. Officers at the crash scene failed to report or photograph Bowling’s injuries or report what witnesses said, the judge wrote.

Instead, Police Officer Robert Lane told Bowling he was going to jail because DEA agents ‘do pretty much whatever they want,’ the judge wrote.

And about Reporter Lambe’s follow-up call list:

Jody Boeding, chief counsel for the Unified Government, said the government ‘respectfully disagrees with Judge Robinson’s conclusions about the actions of the police commanders’ and believes they acted appropriately.

Miller has left the force and is now the police chief in Topeka. He did not return phone calls.

As for Lane, he became an Edwardsville councilman. He left the Police Department in 2007 after he pleaded no contest to four misdemeanors associated with a drunken-driving ticket-fixing scheme. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and probation and is no longer on the council. He could not be reached for comment.

Culp is now the executive director of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training. He declined to comment on details of the judicial rulings, which he said he had not read.

Ware has retired from the force and now works for the police in a civilian capacity. He did not reply to an e-mail request for comment.

Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Rick Armstrong said the judge’s depiction of the case does not reflect past or current attitudes in the Police Department.

‘This Police Department vigorously investigates allegations of misconduct,’ he said.
Wyandotte County prosecutors declined to comment.

McCue is still a DEA agent, an agency spokesperson said.

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MICHAEL CADDELL, a longtime friend of ThisCantBeHappening!, is a prairie radical who raises a little corn and a lot of hell from his farm in North Jefferson County, Kansas, where he is the irrascible editor of the Fightin’ Cock Flyer newspaper and host of Radio Free Kansas. He offered us this column.