Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Quick Update

Despite the fact that I have not tended to this blog in a long time, I intend to keep updating it regularly. The past couple of weeks have been extremely hectic, with college graduation and an apartment hunt going on, I really have not had much time to post. There have been many post-worthy incidents (such as Hillary's not-so-subtle allusion to RFK's assassination as a reason she still is in the race [with the understanding that the same could happen to Obama], Ted Kennedy discovering that he has brain cancer, and George W. Bush held the first of three campaign fundraisers for John McCain, despite the fact that the current president's approval rating is embarrassingly low).

Hopefully things will calm down in the next week and I will be able to get back to posting somewhat regularly. Until then, keep on trucking. Peace.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bush Takes Subliminal Shot at Democrats, Further Hones his Hypocrisy

As this country's blind loyalty to Israel continues, George W. Bush aired out some of America's political dirty laundry in front of a foreign nation and the backlash has been severe (and warranted). In a Knesset speech on May 15, 2008 Bush compared the policies of "some" in American politics who have stated that we should open up diplomatic relations with nations like Iran or territories like Palestine to those involved with Nazi appeasement in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It was then later acknowledged by White House staffers that these comments were directed at prominent American figures like Barack Obama and former President Jimmy Carter. Obama has been vocal about his support to sit down and open up diplomatic relations with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Carter has pushed for negotiations with Hamas. President Bush has said that no "ingenious argument" will cause the violent tendencies of these groups to cease. Of course, this is coming from a president who doesn't even try diplomacy and has plunged this country into a five year war in Iraq that has undoubtedly destabilized a massive region of the Middle East. On the other side of Bush's argument is a president who put his ass on the line to reach the Camp David Accords with Middle Eastern countries without having to fire a shot, but Bush does not like, as we were told do to in kindergarten, to "use his words."

The facts are clear: Ahmadinejad is nuts. Hamas seems pretty determined to get rid of Israel. One link is missing here, however. Bush continues to alienate these factions by refusing to talk with them and instead using the neo-conservative rhetoric of preemptive military action (thanks Wolfowitz) instead of using good old-fashioned diplomacy. It could be that diplomacy will not work, but how will we ever know if we do not try? Sure, GE and Northrup-Grumman won't be getting multi-billion dollar government contracts for defense spending, but thousands of lives could be saved and maybe the rest of the world won't look at America as an arrogant, war-mongering country.

Beyond the politics of everything, however, lays a deeper layer of hypocrisy. To begin with, George W. Bush appears to be a born-again Christian. Christians, for the most part, believe that those who do not seek salvation in Jesus Christ and take him as their savior as mortals here on Earth will perish in the depths of hell for eternity. Thus, as Bush was speaking to a group of Israelis - the majority of whom were probably Jewish - his beliefs and faith dictated that they were all going to hell for not recognizing that Jesus was the son of God and salvation is found in undying devotion and faith in him. I do not see myself as a Christian scholar at all, but from going to church as a kid (where the teachers specifically told my brother that his Jewish friends were going to hell when he asked about them) and from reading parts of the Bible, this is what I have gleaned.

Then there is the Prescott Bush connection. Bush, of course, is father to George H. W. Bush and grandfather to George W. Bush. Prescott Bush was a major businessman and American senator in the first part of the 20th century in America. Prescott Bush also was linked to numerous German companies who both financed Hitler's rise to power and the rearming of the German state (in direct defiance of the Treaty of Versailles), as well as benefited from Nazi slave labor at the beginning of World War II. It was at this point that the U.S. government stepped in and seized the assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act, established during the Great War. In addition to all of this, Bush was involved in a plot to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 and establish a fascist state in America based on Hitler's and Mussolini's model in order to combat the Great Depression. So while Obama and Carter may want to sit down and talk with leaders like Ahmadinejad and groups like Hamas, they still oppose what they do and are not supporting them - financially or otherwise - like George W. Bush's own grandfather did with Hitler's Nazism. I understand that you cannot choose your family, but if Bush wants to compare Obama to Hitler appeasers, then he should at least condemn his grandfather's actions prior to (and during) World War II.

Thus, despite George W. Bush's pledge to keep himself out of the 2008 presidential race, he has thrust himself into it. While McCain did not compare Obama to the Western powers that appeased Hitler prior to World War II (the American government being one of them), he did say that Obama was "naive" and "inexperienced" because he wanted to try out diplomacy before, in McCain's own songful words, "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb[ing] Iran" if necessary. Beyond the complete idiocy and divisiveness of Bush's words, it is completely inappropriate to put down another member of the American government in front of a foreign gathering for political purposes. This is one of the reasons that people think Americans have little class, as Bush appears to be just like school in the summertime (no class). I think in the end, this might hurt the Republicans because it is very extreme to invoke Hitler into modern day politics in any light. To compare one of the more liberal presidential candidates in a long time to one who would appease Hitler is out there and really does not make sense. But Bush is not exactly one to follow that fickle law of "logic." Peace.

Photos - Bush before Israel's Knesset on May 15 (www.bloomberg.com), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran (www.msnbc.msn.com), Prescott Bush and George W. Bush (www.tsl.state.tx.us)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Justice for Ciara Durkin

Harking back on a story that I discussed a while ago, Massachusetts Army National Guard Specialist Ciara Durkin was found dead on a secure army base in Afghanistan with a single gunshot wound to the head. Her September 28, 2007 death occurred under highly suspicious circumstances, but the Army eventually ruled it a suicide. Those circumstances surrounding her death, however, seem to paint a different story.

Durkin had been home only three weeks prior to her death in Afghanistan and had told her family that if anything happened to her while she was overseas that they should have it thoroughly investigated. Additionally, she had told her sister that while working as a finance specialist at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan (the same base on which she was killed) that she had discovered some information that had made her some enemies on the base. Only three weeks after this she was found dead with a single gunshot wound to the head.

As if this were not suspicious enough, the Army initially lied to the Durkin family about what really happened to their daughter. The Army told them that Ciara had died in a combat situation in Afghanistan, which immediately aroused suspicion because Durkin was a finance specialist who rarely, if ever, saw combat. When pressed, the Army conceded that, in fact, Durkin had died not in combat, but next to a church on a secure part of the airbase.

Recent scrutiny of the case has come on the heels of a column by Ann Wright, a 29 year Army and Army Reserve veteran who recently retired in protest to the war in Iraq. Colonel Wright highlights numerous other cases of women dying in secure areas that are suspiciously labeled "suicide" by the Army. Some of the cases are quote shocking, as there are damning statistics cited by Wright (she says that 1/3 of women in the Armed Forces will be sexually assaulted or raped by their male military peers). The cases involve cover-ups of rape and murder on military bases, with evidence to go with it. The incident involving Ciara Durkin's "suicide" is one of the highlighted cases for its very suspicious circumstances, given Durkin's comments to her family less than a month prior and her unlikeliness of taking her own life (her family and co-workers cite no unusual or depressing behavior).

Something about Durkin's death is amiss, here, and it appears that there are several things that the Army is not telling the Durkin family. Senators Kennedy and Kerry have looked into it, but have resolved little. The Durkin family deserves to know the truth about what happened to their daughter, who was serving this country in Afghanistan. Given the Army's past cover-up attempts and the VA's disgusting treatment of post-war veterans, it is time to demand the truth. It's bad enough that over 4,000 soldiers have died in a war that was sold to the American public on bad intel, but to lie to the families of those making the ultimate sacrifice for this country is unconscionable. I am urging anyone who feels that nothing less than justice is warranted in this case to write to the public officials who will be listed after this post and ask them to press for information in this case. Peace.

Photos - Ciara Durkin (www.bostonherald.com), Durkin's casket following funeral services in Quincy, MA (www.daylife.com)

Public Officials to Write To:

Bill Delahunt (Congressional Representative to the 10th District of Massachusetts, which includes Durkin's hometown of Quincy)
Congressman Bill Delahunt
1250 Hancock Street, Suite 802-N
Quincy, MA 02169
william.delahunt@mail.house.gov

Ted Kennedy (Senator to Massachusetts)
Senator Ted Kennedy
2400 JFK Building
Boston, MA 02203
http://kennedy.senate.gov/senator/contact.cfm

John Kerry (Senator to Massachusetts)
Senator John Kerry
One Bowdoin Square
Tenth Floor
Boston, MA 02114
http://kerry.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm

Ike Skelton (Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee)
Congressman Ike Skelton
1401 Southwest Blvd, Suite 101
Jefferson City, MO 65109-2429
http://www.house.gov/skelton/email.shtml

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ambrosino Finally Fires Franklin: More Details Emerge that Make the Case Even More Confusing

Revere Police Sergeant Evan Franklin
(Christopher King Blogspot)
Despite being a few weeks late, Revere Mayor Thomas Ambrosino finally fired disgraced Revere Police Sergeant Evan Franklin, the ranking officer at the scene of Daniel Talbot's murder who fled when gunfire erupted while his colleague stayed behind to allegedly try to fire back or protect Talbot's civilian fiance. Unfortunately, Mayor Ambrosino's document outlining why Franklin was fired, while offering some more details as to Franklin's involvement in the shooting and subsequent fleeing that night, simply brings up more questions as to what really happened that night back in September on Revere High School's baseball fields.

In a scathing letter, Mayor Ambrosino detailed why he felt that Sergeant Evan Franklin no longer belonged on the police force. What is surprising is that it is not Franklin's fleeing from the scene of a shooting in which one of his own men was hit (Franklin and fleeing go together, as he fled from the scene of an accident in 1995 on Route 1), but the fact that he stopped officer Robert Impemba, who was responding to the shooting and ordered him to drive him home instead of going to help his fellow officers who were allegedly involved in a shoot out with gang members. Mayor Ambrosino wrote the following in his decision to can Franklin:

There is no evidence to support any claim that Sgt. Franklin got into the cruiser not knowing that Impemba was responding to the scene of a shooting. The evidence instead supports the finding that Franklin used his supervisory position to interrupt the emergency response of a police cruiser fairly close to the scene of a shooting, which in fact became a murder.
Revere Mayor Thomas Ambrosino
(Boston Globe)
While I would argue that Franklin's fleeing the scene alone warrants an immediate dismissal from the force, and his later actions would demand that Franklin give back the previous eight or so months of taxpayer money he has received by being on paid leave since the incident, Mayor Ambrosino sees it differently and, ultimately, he is sitting in the boss's chair.

I would, however, urge Suffolk County DA Daniel Conley to press charges against Sergeant Franklin for not only lying to State Police investigators, but also impeding Officer Impemba's response to the crime scene. A good place to start, depending on whether or not Franklin gave written statements, would be Chapter 268, Sections, 6A, 24, and 40. Those are simply the crimes that I found that I believe Evan Franklin committed that night (beyond leaving his firearm unsecured in the back of an unlocked vehicle belonging to Officer Soto, a felony.)

One question that arises is, why did it take Mayor Ambrosino so long to come to this decision? Is it not obvious, given Franklin's horrendous behavior, that he is unfit to be a police officer? I would have argued that he was unfit following his first committal of a crime when he fled the scene of an accident on Route 1, but it seems that common sense is a rare natural resource. Mayor Ambrosino also stated that he would probably have a decision a few weeks ago, but obviously that was not true. By sitting on this decision, it makes it seem that there are mitigating circumstances that are not being disclosed to the public. Neil Rossman, Evan Franklin's attorney, takes to blaming everyone else but Franklin for his client's behavior. He says that:
This had nothing to do with police work. It had to do with five knuckleheads drinking in a park at 2 a.m., who happened to have day jobs as police officers. It is tragic for everyone, especially Officer Talbot who had this needless interaction with these young thugs.
So, for those of you keeping track at home, the officers drinking at the scene (and Talbot's fiance) are knuckleheads and it is a tragic situation for Franklin because of the "interaction" with these young thugs. Again, ask yourself why would you even "interact" with these "young thugs?" It takes two to tango, and they could have just let Lodie roll through without exchanging words with him, but they chose not to. After the verbal altercation that could have either left or called for backup, but did neither. Instead, something highly mysterious happened that night, that gets more confusing and bewildering as more details emerge.

Impemba told Franklin that he was responding to a shooting at Revere High (the shooting that Franklin fled) but he instead ordered the responding officer to drop him off elsewhere. This poses a major issue, beyond the fact that Franklin acted cowardly and callous. Why would Sergeant Evan Franklin, an 11 year veteran of the force, order a responding officer who was going to the scene of an officer shooting to stop responding to drop him off at home? I want to revisit one of two scenarios that I brought up in my original post about Officer Talbot's murder:
Then there's scenario number two: these cops are at Revere High at 1 am for whatever reason, an argument or something occurs within the group, Talbot is killed by someone in the group with a non-department issued weapon, which they then break down and toss in a storm drain. Then the group comes up with a story involving a "homeless misfit", as the Herald describes him, and a group of his apparently unknown friends. Like something out of a movie.
Now add to that that Sergeant Evan Franklin flags down the responding officer and distracts him to buy more time for others at the scene to destroy evidence (the broken down handgun found in the storm drain) and come up with suspects (known gang members and a "homeless misfit"). In my original post I stated that I believed that what actually happened is somewhere between scenario 1 (the prosecutor's story) and scenario 2 (the above scenario, with newly added points due to more details emerging.)

Suffolk County DA Daniel F. Conley (Wikipedia)
I still believe this. I only throw out the second scenario as an extreme to show how, given the information the public has about this case at this point, the facts of the case can be twisted to portray a different story.

But I've said it before and I will say it again, something simply does not add up in this case and I fear that something is missing from what the DA and officials are feeding us. Some people will say that questioning the "official" account of what occurred that night is a slight to the memory of Daniel Talbot. I would argue the exact opposite: if you truly want justice for Daniel Talbot, you cannot sincerely look at the prosecutor's case and take it at face value given the incredibly nebulous details emerging.

To genuinely bring justice for Daniel Talbot, the absolute truth must be uncovered, not the most convenient story for prosecutors to put this tragedy behind everyone. If Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley wants to release public information regarding this case, starting at the very least with the videotapes from the cameras mounted on Revere High (paid for and maintained through taxpayer money), and that information corresponds to the story that his office is giving to us, then I will be the first to say Talbot's killers may be in custody. Until then, we are left guessing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Just Resign, Vito

Vito Fossella and mistress Laura Fay
(NY Daily News)
As if it could not get worse for Staten Island/Brooklyn U.S. Representative Vito Fossella. After being arrested for drunk driving in Alexandria, Virginia with a BAC of 0.17 (more than twice the state's legal limit), he compounded his mistake by not calling his wife or an aide or a friend to pick him up from the drunk tank, but his mistress, with whom he has a child.

Fossella came out today and admitted that he had an affair with the woman, Laura Fay, and fathered a 3 year old daughter with her. For whatever reason, his original court date to take place next week has been canceled and will occur in June. Hopefully there will be no more revelations of Fossella's misbehavior until then, but given this man's undisputed moronic decision making, no one can truly be sure.

The old proverb goes: you shouldn't throw stones if you live in a glass house. Fossella does not like living by this rule. In an April 17, 2008 letter Fossella, along with other members of Congress, sent a letter to HBO demanding an apology from Bill Maher who said some offensive things about the Catholic Church, stating that the Pope used to be a Nazi (kinda true, he was part of the Hitler youth, though claims to have been morally opposed to it) and wears funny hats (they certainly are not mainstream), but then crossed the line discussing pedophilia and the church (though there is evidence that the church has been involved in a massive cover-up.) In the letter, which Fossella signed, it states:
Mr. Maher crossed the line of decency by insulting the Pope, mocking the Catholic religion and Catholics and diminishing the importance of the Catholic faith.
Given Fossella's recent escapades (endangering others by driving drunk, cheating on his wife and fathering a child out of wedlock while he has three of his own children at home), I think one could easily replace "Mr. Maher" with "Mr. Fossella" (minus the insulting the Pope part.)

This is just another example of a person claiming to be something when, in reality, he or she cannot own up to his or her own actions. My advice to Vito Fossella is do not pull a Larry Craig, go the way of Eliot Spitzer and resign with a shred of dignity left. By resigning you are at least admitting that you have done not only your family wrong, but your constituency wrong as well. Staying in your seat and possibly running for re-election (though I am sure that the Washington elders of your party will try to make sure you do not even fathom the idea of running again) will only keep you in the spotlight and, unfortunately, your family as well. Do the right thing and step down, if not for your sake then for those around you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lawyer Who Defended Bell Killer Can't Make Up His Mind

It appears that Anthony Ricco, a lawyer for Gescard Isnora, the man who fired the first shot at Sean Bell and his friends that began the 50 bullet disgrace, has a tough time making up his mind. You see, he thinks that the 41 shots fired at unarmed black man Amadou Diallo by the NYPD in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building is horrendous, but the 50 shots fired at unarmed black man Sean Bell by the NYPD is not only OK, but worth defending the man who started the shooting. After the Diallo shooting, Ricco sent a letter to the feds urging civil rights charges for the four cops who shot the African immigrant (those charges were never filed), saying that,

The New York City Police Department has acted with impunity in its pattern of excessive use of force and violence against members of the African-American and Latino communities. The tragic litany of violence shall continue unless and until the United States Department of Justice aggressively prosecutes the police officers who are responsible for the violation of basic civil rights of the citizens they are hired to protect.

Well said, and I completely agree with Mr. Ricco's statement. Now fast-forward seven years, when Sean Bell and his two friends are shot while leaving a strip club while having no weapons on them. One would think that Ricco would get his pen ready to write to the feds again in the case of another state court injustice akin to the one from the Diallo shooting. No dice. In fact, Ricco decided to defend Gescard Isnora, the officer who began the shooting.

Is not the Sean Bell shooting a continuation of the "tragic litany of violence" that Ricco talks about in his 2000 letter? Was not what happened back in November, 2006 an example of an "excessive use of force and violence against members of the African-American and Latino communities"? Even if you subscribe to the notion that the officers somehow had a right to open fire on three unarmed men on an open street, there is little doubt that 50 shots is, at the very least, a bit excessive.

The irony of all this is the fact that now Anthony Ricco will be begging the feds not to charge civil rights charges against his client for killing Sean Bell. Ricco is trying to argue that the cases are different, and he is right. One was in the Bronx in a building and the other was in Queens in a car. Beyond that, however, the cases are very similar. Both involve unarmed black men, both involve said unarmed black men reacting to guns being drawn on them late at night by plainclothes officers who may or may not have identified themselves as the po, and both involve trigger-happy cops who fired over 40 shots. Hopefully the remaining difference will be that Diallo's killers were never brought to justice and Bell's killers will be. Peace.

Photos - Anthony (Tony) Ricco defending Sammy "The Bull" Gravano in 2005 (ganglandnews.com), Gescard Isnora, Ricco's client (www.nydailynews.com)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Vito Fossella Drinking and Driving Despite "Tough-on-Crime" Stances (UPDATED)

Vito Fossella (NYMag)
If there's one thing in Washington that is plentiful, besides sex, it's hypocrisy. The most recent man to shame himself by doing something stupid is New York's own Vito Fossella, a Republican Representative from the 13th District (Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.) It seems that Fossella is the kind of guy to drink and drive. The former city councilman was arrested last night/early this morning in suburban D.C. (Alexandria) for driving while intoxicated. He cannot use the Bush excuse of "youthful indiscretions," either because he is past the age of 30.

Normally I wouldn't write about this and just tack it up to Washington politicians being Washington politicians. But looking at Fossella's stance on numerous issues, this arrest brings Fossella's moral character into question.

Fossella takes a hard stance on drugs, according to NORML, a marijuana reform group. Additionally, and this was the most disturbing, Fossella takes a "hard-on-crime" stance. One of the reasons that I am sensitive about this subject is the fact that, despite studies and empirical evidence, Washington continues to simply throw money at the prison problem in America instead of trying to rehabilitate criminals in society. This just adds to taxpayer burden and with the cost of corrections soaring, we cannot really afford this. Studies have shown that education significantly reduces recidivism and saves taxpayers a lot of money, but our politicians want to take the simple "hard on crime" stance so people don't think that they actually care about criminals.

Specifically, Fossella is against expanding services to help former inmates re-enter society (another method proven to reduce recidivism) as well as funding for alternative sentencing (like, say, alcohol treatment for a drunk driver) instead of more prisons. Despite the fact that refusing to help inmates re-enter society is illogical, many politicians will simply rail against helping criminals in any way, shape, or form. These politicians, however, better keep their noses squeaky clean lest they commit a crime and look sheepish. Fossella has not kept his nose clean, as he instead got arrested for putting others' lives in danger by driving while intoxicated. The ultimate [if not ironic] justice for Fossella would be to go to prison, for he is not a believer of alternative sentencing (this would also prohibit him from simply pulling a Patrick Kennedy, say he will go to rehab and fix himself up, and pretend that nothing happened [then again, Kennedy voted for alternative sentences].)

UPDATE 5/6/08: I just wanted to throw in a quick update on Vito Fossella's DUI debacle. His blood-alcohol level was twice Virginia's legal limit at 0.17. Fossella must, at the very least, spend five days in jail due to a state statute that places that sentence minimum on anyone who has a BAC over 0.15. Fossella was initially pulled over after running a red light and told officers he was going to pick up his daughter to take her to the hospital. Other reports state that the congressman was going to hang out with some friends. I hope that Fossella was going to hang out with friends, because if he legitimately was going to pick up his daughter in that state, that's even worse. Either way, Fossella will be spending some time behind bars, though I doubt it will change his mind on alternative sentencing.