Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Death of Kristi Johnson





   Yesterday was the birthday of Kristi Johnson. She would have been 34 years old today. As promised this is a re-post of a story first published on Feb 27th 2011

Another sad story for me to write involving a beautiful young girl from Michigan.
A few weeks ago, a little more than a month, I wasn't feeling very well, and between bouts of running to the bathroom, for a time I stayed in bed, covers up to chin, while I watched MSNBC on my television. This was on a Saturday, near noon, and because there is no news on the weekends, MSNBC devotes it's programming time to stories about being locked up in prison, or in this case, the NBC newsmagazine, Dateline, of which most of the information in this post is based.
As I laid in bed I began watching the episode entitled "Death in the Hollywood Hills." The correspondent who reported this story was Keith Morrison, and it was first aired on March 1st, of 2007. It concerned the young woman mentioned above, 21 year old Kristi Johnson.
Like so many other hopefuls she came to Southern California in 2001 in search of a job in the entertainment industry.
Terry Hall, Kristi's mother: “She thought, 'I would really like to be involved in this industry but on the production side of it, on the other side of the camera.'”
She was exceptionally pretty, as the pictures above indicate (Hall: "She could you know tie her hair back in a ponytail and wear no make-up and look absolutely smashing. Or she could put on her high heels and a great outfit and look a totally a different way too"), and was repeatedly told she should audition for acting jobs.
Hall: "Kristi loved the beach. And she told me you know how beautiful it was and how much she was enjoying being in California."
Kristi and her mother were very close and spoke to each other every day. In 2003, on Valentine's Day, another Saturday, Kristi called her mother and told her she was going shopping at the mall. That was the last time she got to speak to her daughter.
A nightmare was about to begin for Terry. One that every caring parent must dread the possibility of enduring. Thousands of miles away, the link to Kristi's existence suddenly faded away. She should have called her mom back the next day. No word was heard from her.
Two days passed. No word... no call.
Terry filed a missing person's report with the police in Santa Monica. Det. Virginia Obenchain was given the case.
Det. Obenchain: "The original patrol officer that was sent to take the missing persons report didn’t feel too good about the circumstances, so he came upstairs to the detective bureau, and I was the only one upstairs. So he told me, and I remember when he explained the circumstances, the hair on the back of my neck started to rise.
We talked to the roommate, and the roommate told us that she had gone to Century City mall, went shopping there and was very excited when she came home because she was going to audition for a James Bond clip.
There are some girls that will go with perfect strangers in the hopes that they can make it big. They don’t know Hollywood. They just come in, and they figure, 'Oh, back in the old days where you used to meet at the drug store counter and then you’re all of a sudden a star...' some gals still believe that that can happen."
Morrison: "Does it?"
Det. Obenchain: "Not that I know of."
Kristi remained missing, and Det. Obenchain had few clues to work with. She held a press conference and explained Kristi's case, and got a call from another young woman on a tip line, who said that she had been approached too in the Century City Mall.
21 days before Kristi went to the mall to look for a Valentine’s gift, Susan Murphy was approached by a man who claimed to be in the entrainment business, and that his name was Victor Thomas.
Murphy: "He looked normal and he just said, “I think you’re very attractive. He said, 'I’m a director of photography and we’re casting for the new James Bond movie.' And he said, 'We’ve been casting all day and you’re the look we want, you’re perfect.'
I’d had enough experience to kind of know that this was a come-on, a pick-up. And I knew that and— I was very intrigued. If it’s true, hey cool, that’d be great. How fun would that be, to be a 'Bond Girl?' I think every girl has a dream about that."
Five years earlier this happened to yet another pretty girl, Cathy Debuono.
"He told me he really liked my legs and that he was working closely with the James Bond movies and that they were looking for new people, people who weren’t so recognizable. He talked about 'big bucks.' He named numbers of money that I can’t recall today, but it was a lot of money."
To Cathy the man's name was Brian.
"He wasn’t lascivious at all. He didn’t try to touch me. He didn’t try to flirt with me or come onto me. He seemed like he could be legitimately in the business and talking to me about a real opportunity."
Susan told Det. Obenchain that the man had requested she ware specific types of clothing for her "audition."
"He said it’s very important that I wear stilettos," she said. "Black stilettos as high as possible. And then he said a black mini-skirt preferably, but any mini-skirt would be great. Panty hose, pantyhose not nylons, a white man’s shirt, hair slicked back really tight in a ponytail. And a man’s tie. And he said he would provide the tie."
Det. Obenchain: "And, that happens to be everything that Kristi purchased on February 15."
In the hours before she disappeared, Kristi Johnson bought a black mini skirt, sheer nylons, stiletto heels, and the white shirt. This is what was so heart wrenching for me as I watched this on my television. You see there was actual video footage taken in the Mall of Kristi on that day, footage of her being approached by a man, although his features were indiscernible, and other footage of Kristi making those purchases. What I can't seem to wrap around my head is the report of Kristi's roommate saying that Kristi was so excited, so happy to be getting this break, and her apparent joy and happiness as she bought these items, you could almost see it in the videos, her hopes of getting that impossible opportunity that thousands of men and women dream about, only to discover a human monster instead, one that would use her and end her short life.
For that's exactly what happened very soon after those last video pictures of Kristi Johnson alive were taken that day. I'll never get those images out of my consciousness for the rest of my life.
I'm not a father. I've not been fortunate in life to have had that privilege. But I can imagine the pleasure of having a child that is part of you, to share that beautiful creatures early life, to help mold that child's world view, helping it to understand, and one day cope with the world's intricacies and joys, and dangers. Of sharing birthdays, and Christmases, and spelling tests, and first dates, and Halloweens, and everything else, and then to suddenly have all of that abruptly taken away by the insane acts of that human monster. Maybe just monster, for the act perpetrated upon Kristi can hardly be called human.
It rained hard during the winter of 2003. In the hills above Hollywood rivers of water poured off the hills, and mud, and one day some hikers found what looked like the remains of a female body.
Det. Obenchain: "Kristine’s body was found. Her hands tied behind her back. Her legs tied. She was partially in a sleeping bag, and she was severely decomposed from the shoulders up."
Morrison: "Simply by being out of doors in a very rainy, wet season."
Det. Obenchain: "Correct."
Morrison: "Dumped."
Det. Obenchain: "Dumped."
Terry Hall: "I think Kristi appreciated life very much. She was very aware that what there was in this world, you know that was beautiful about this world."
The name of the man who murdered Kristi is Victor Paleologus, 40 years old at the time, and had no connection with the film industry. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about this piece of filth. The two women he had attempted this scam on before had taken precautions when meeting him for the "audition," one taking a male friend along. They were able to identify Paleologus, after a police sketch had been issued of the person of interest in Kristi's case. A parole officer contacted Det. Obenchain and told her he was one of theirs. Fortunately for Det. Obenchain, Paleologus was already in county jail for an unrelated offense. He admitted to meeting Kristi on that day, but nothing else.
Any physical evidence that might have tied Kristi's murder to Paleologus had been washed away, but after his arrest got a little publicity other witnesses came forth, and...
Det. Obenchain: "We had another woman call us on the tip line, and she said that she saw Mr. Paleologus at the Century City mall on February 15. We also got a call from Mr. Paul Cady who is a realtor, who had shown Mr. Paleologus numerous houses, particularly one house on Skyline Drive that was several hundred yards away from where her body was found."
The prosecution brought in Susan Murphy, Cathy Debuono, and other women who had encountered Paleologus in the past.
Susan Murphy: "Anyone who was in that court will tell you my voice. I was shaking. There’s a jury right there. And then just looking at her family, that broke my heart. Broke my heart. And I kept thinking about, what if that was my dad sitting out there?"
Over 3 years after her disappearance, 13 days into his trial, Paleologus decided to make a deal and pled guilty to Kristi's murder.
The deal: He would escape the death penalty and get 25 to life with the possibility of parole but without the right to appeal.
Morrison: "Was it important to the family to hear him say, 'I killed your daughter?'"
Det. Obenchain: "It was."
Morrison: "Did they get as much as they wanted in that respect?"
Det. Obenchain: "No. I think they wanted to know why she had to die. I have a theory. I can’t prove it. Only Victor knows if it’s true. But I think he lured her up there for the purposes of raping her. He assaulted her, she fought back, he strangled her, went a little too far, she lost consciousness, he thought he had killed her and he dumped her over the hill."
Morrison: "You think it’s even possible she went down the side of that hill still alive?"
Det. Obenchain: "According to the coroner the head wound was peri-mortem, which is on the brink of death, so she may have still been alive."
Then Paleologus asked the judge through a letter if he could withdraw his guilty plea. The judge denied his request.
Kristi's parents were then allowed to address the murderer of their daughter.
Kirk Johnson, Kristi’s father: "The reason we are here is because of Mr. Paleologus. And there is a reason why this happened. Only God knows. And I can’t find an answer for that."
Terry Hall: "Victor Paleologus has been allowed the freedom to let the evil in his life escalate, resulting in the heinous murder of Kristi my beloved young daughter, a beautiful young woman on the threshold of her life."
Judge: "For the willful deliberate and premeditated first degree murder of Kristine Johnson, the court sentences the defendant to serve 25 years to life in the state penitentiary."
Christine Kludjian: "One had to die for us to pay attention? One had to die for us to look at a situation and say, 'Wait a minute, what is going on with our laws in this country that put repeat offenders who are not rehabilitateable out on the street again and again and again?'"
Back in jail Victor Paleologus continued to deny killing Kristi, stating he only pled guilty because it would cost too much to go to trial.
Really?
He continues to deny the murder to this day.
Here is the link to the Dateline story:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15625846/ns/dateline_nbc-crime_reports/

Yesterday would have been Kristi's 34th birthday.

Below is an essay written by Kristi's mother, Terry Hall:

I reported Kristi as missing on Monday morning, February 17, 2003. It was about two weeks later that I retrieved a phone message telling me her body had been discovered. I was alone in the back of a limo at night heading into New York City. The plans had been to speak on a national talk show the next morning to continue efforts escalating publicity on Kristi’s disappearance in the hopes that she was still alive and would be found. The words on the voice mail from the chief of police confirming Kristi’s death extinguished all hope. I was engulfed with an overwhelming physical hollowness and a mental paralysis. At the same time, I was filled with a presence of strength and love. I was not alone in the back of the limo; a spirit resided within me. Kristi was now at peace in an everlasting world filled with love.
During the search for Kristi, everything moved rapidly — but not fast enough. The last time I had spoken with Kristi was on Saturday, February 15, 2003, the day of her murder. We spoke with each other daily. That morning we chatted a little about this and that; I thanked her for the e-Valentine she had sent me the day before. It was a sweet message accompanied by a song she liked. She was going to go to the mall later on; she wanted to buy some candles. I told her to pick some out. The candles would be my Valentine Day present to her. President's Day was going to be on Monday, she had to work but I had the day off.
Later during the day, I tried to call Kristi. She didn’t pick up. The next day I tried several times to call her again, still no pick up. I thought it was odd; maybe she didn’t remember to charge her cell phone or maybe she was busy with friends. Whatever the reason, I’d try back on Monday morning.
Monday morning came and still nothing. At 9 a.m., I called her office number; no pick up on her direct line. I called the main number and they hadn’t heard from her either. This was unusual since Kristi was always on time or would have called if running late.
The next call I made was to the Santa Monica Police Department to report Kristi as missing. I was concerned she had been in an accident. The SMPD suggested I contact local hospitals. I called multiple hospitals. Kristi had not been admitted to any of them. I called SMPD back to confirm reporting Kristi as missing. An officer was deployed to her apartment around noon to interview one of her roommates. The search for Kristi was on.
Every waking moment was spent ramping up the search efforts for Kristi. Any possible scenario of her whereabouts was ever present in my mind. Phone calls became constant. Missing persons and search organizations, the media, the police department, family, friends, Kristi’s co-workers. Pictures of Kristi were put together to assist in building the awareness of her [being] missing. The circumstances related to Kristi's disappearance combined with her beauty and innocence heightened media interest. I was grateful to get the attention to build awareness of search efforts. Time was lapsing but never my hope that she would be found. I hadn’t known at this time the fact that after 72 hours of a person [being] missing, they most would not be found alive.
Kristi’s birthday was coming up soon. She was born on February 27, 1981. She would have turned 22 years old on that birthday had she lived. I reached out to the Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to organize a vigil on Kristi’s birthday. I had been an Episcopalian all my life and Kristi and her brother grew up attending the Episcopal Church. Saint Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica welcomed me with love and support.
A candlelight vigil was held on Kristi’s birthday, February 27. On the evening the vigil was held, I received much love, support and prayers. The music at the service was beautiful. Two songs were sung, one “You Are So Beautiful To Me,” a song I used to sing to Kristi as a baby when I rocked her to sleep. The other song, “Hero,” by Enrique Iglesias, was the song Kristi had sent to me in her e-Valentine. The crowd that had gathered for the vigil proceeded outside to the courtyard while singing and holding lit candles. A circle of prayer was formed under a beautiful tree within the courtyard. This would eventually be the location of the Fountain of Joy in Kristi’s memory.
On March 3, 2003, Kristi’s body was discovered down a ravine in the Hollywood hills. The circumstances of her murder are beyond horrendous. After receiving the news of Kristi’s death, all my energy immediately went to planning a beautiful funeral. This was my last opportunity to lay Kristi to rest with the respect and dignity her life deserved. The activity of dealing with details of funeral preparation somehow kept me functional. It diminished my deep dark grief.
I shopped for Kristi for the last time, picking out a lovely sleeping gown and wrap for her to be dressed in. Even though the casket would be closed, it gave me comfort to know I could somehow make a contribution to honor her, no matter how unnecessary. I could barely see the road driving home as my eyes welted with tears, the shopping bag on floor next to me containing the sleeping gown packed in a gift box.
Kristi’s funeral was held at the Episcopal Church in the town where I was then living, Los Gatos, Calif. Simultaneously, a memorial service for Kristi was being held at the Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Mich. A memorial service was also held later that week in Santa Monica, at St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church.
While Kristi's brother and I were planning her funeral with the Father at St. Luke’s in Los Gatos, he told us that his mother had always said, “Funerals are for the living.” These words still reside with me. Not only was Kristi’s funeral for the living, but also any future tributes to Kristi’s life would be for the living. Kristi loved life and that’s how she would want us to continue ours.
An incredible amount of people had given time, effort and support during the search effort for Kristi. People continued to give of themselves and made financial donations in her memory after her death. I contacted St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to discuss possible projects to channel contributions to. The church had started a project a couple years before to erect a fountain in the courtyard but the project had taken a back burner.
A fountain sounded perfect. My parents have a fountain in the courtyard at their home. This fountain had always been a focal point of family photo shoots during gatherings and events. The fountain could represent so much of what Kristi’s life emitted, it would be called the Fountain of Joy.
It’s been over three years since Kristi’s murder. The trial just recently completed with an outcome we can be satisfied with. The Fountain of Joy project is still living. As with many projects, it’s evolved into a larger undertaking than originally anticipated. The Fountain of Joy’s concept and intent have grown as well.
The Fountain of Joy is still a tribute to Kristi’s life and a gift to all inside and beyond the community who gave so unselfishly during a time of another person’s tragedy. Many of the people who donated their energies did not even know Kristi or anything about her. It was inspiring for me during my difficult journey to see how truly loving and generous people are.
In addition to these tributes, the Fountain of Joy will also be presented to anyone seeking a place of respite and meditation from the challenges of daily life. The fountains beautiful final design, comprised of natural elements; water, stone and light, will evoke the essence of the project, to “Celebrate the Quiet Power.”
How wonderful it will be to see a tranquil welcoming spot in the middle of a busy metropolis welcoming the human sprit to pause, gain strength and celebrate the beauty of this world. I hope the Fountain of Joy will help flourish the joy, love and celebration encompassed in Kristi’s life. Terry Hall, November 9th, 2006

I'm sorry to report that I took a trip to the St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica one recent Sunday morning, and no one there could point out, tell me about, or remember anything concerning the Fountain of Joy. After only five years it seems to have been discarded and forgotten, or perhaps it was never built.
But I, and this website will always remember Kristi and her short, beautiful, wondrous life, and will repost this story every February 27th for the remainder of Joyce's Take's active existence.
Not only for Kristi, though she would be enough, but for all of the children who have tragically died under similar circumstances. All of those children who disappear. All of the ones we have loved and refuse to forget.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Corporatocracy























Corporatocracy; a term used as an economic and political system controlled by corporations or corporate interests. It is a generally pejorative term often used by critics of the current economic situation in a particular country, especially the United States. -Wikipedia

Plutocracy (from Greek πλοῦτος, ploutos, meaning "wealth", and κράτος, kratos, meaning "power, dominion, rule") or plutarchy, defines a society or a system ruled and dominated by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens. -Wikipedia

In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. -Wikipedia

Cromnibus; It's the combination of a "continuing resolution" (CR) and "omnibus" spending bill, two Washington D.C. terms for measures Congress has approved to keep the government funded. 

Campaign finance refers to all funds raised in order to promote candidates, political parties, or policies in elections, referendums, initiatives, party activities, and party organizations. The funds could also detract from the opponents of the above. Campaign funds is the subject heading under which all books dealing with money in politics are cataloged by the Library of Congress. Other nations use other terms for the subject and offer a broader perspective. -Wikipedia

Bribery is an act of giving money or gift giving that alters the behavior of the recipient, where the gift is of a dishonest nature. Bribery constitutes a crime and is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty. -Wikipedia

Forget about immigration, climate change, education, bears. The biggest problem the United States faces is money in politics. -Richard Joyce


Change You Can Believe In


Picture Legend:

2. U.S.
3. Denmark
4. New Zealand
5. Finland
6. Sweden
7. Norway
8. Somalia
9. Fourth Grader
10. North Korea
11. Wages Stagnant    
12. Juan Cole
13. Money in Politics
14. Lobbying
15. Form of Corruption
16. Grayson Propaganda
17. Great Depression communities
18. The republican ideal goal for today’s middle class
19. Anti-Corporation propaganda
20. Pissed off Senator Elizabeth Warren
21. Queen Kate

  
   The U.S. ranks the 17th least corrupt county in the world, along with Barbados, Hong Kong (which is not a country technically, and is officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China), and Ireland, according to the Corruption Perception Index released December 2nd by Transparency International ((TI) the group says the index is based on "expert opinions of public sector corruption. Countries' scores can be helped by open government where the public can hold leaders to account, while a poor score is a sign of prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don't respond to citizens' needs").  
   It ranked 19th last year, so we are apparently less corrupt than we were12 months ago. I have no idea why.
   What are the least corrupt countries in the world? Those nasty “socialist” Scandinavian nations that the right wingers hate so much whenever somebody quite rightly suggests that the United States emulate some of their successful policies, such as free health care (Denmark has a universal health care system, which is publicly financed through taxes and, for most services, ran directly by regional authorities. Denmark has a life expectancy of 79.5 years at birth. As of 2012 the life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.74 years if one forgoes bowling). and education (all college and university education in Denmark is free of charge, there are no tuition fees), and New Zealand, where the Hobbits live. 
   The Kingdom of Denmark, which is actually a unitary (a state governed as one single power) parliamentary (a system of democratic governance of a state in which the executive branch derives its democratic legitimacy from, and is held accountable to, the legislature (parliament); the executive and legislative branches are thus interconnected) constitutional monarchy (a form of government in which a monarch is legally restricted within the boundaries of a constitution) is the least corrupt of 175 countries that were ranked, with a score of 92 out of a possible 100, 100 being the least corrupt possible, like Heaven let’s say, and 1 point being the most corrupt, like Hell. 
   New Zealand, which is also a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, is the second least corrupt country, with a score of 91, followed by Finland (a parliamentary republic (a type of republic (a form of government in which power is supposed to reside in the people, and the government is ruled by elected leaders according to law, rather than inherited or appointed) that operates under a parliamentary system of government where the executive branch (the government) derives its legitimacy from and is accountable to the legislature (the parliament), with a score of 89, Sweden (another unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy), with a score of 87, and Norway (guess what... a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy) with a score of 86.
   The score for the United States is 74.
   What are the most corrupt countries on the planet? According to TI that dubious honor goes to Somalia and North Korea, each with a score of 8.
   Supposedly Somalia is a federal parliamentary republic, which as any fourth grader knows, is a federation of states with a republican form of government that is, more or less, dependent upon the confidence of legislatures at both the national and subnational levels. In reality Somalia is barely held together, if it is together, by a weak central government, and is more accurately being run by a number of competing families and warlords, creating an atmosphere of chaos and division within the entire nation. Remember Black Hawk Down? Remember pirates? Remember Captain Phillips?
   North Korea is considered a “single-party state,” a type of system in which a single political party has the right to form the government, usually based on an existing constitution. All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled participation in elections. However, the country’s Supreme Leader,  Kim Jong-un, like his father, Kim Jong-il, before him, and his grandfather Kim Il-sung, exercises absolute control over the country. Some, certainly not me, might call this form of government a dictatorship. 
   What does TI and others mean by being corrupt? Well we know what Wikipedia says about corruption above, but specifically corruption usually has it’s basis in the monetary realm. For instance a 2012 World Bank report alleged that about $130 million or 68% of the funds that the coalition government of Somalia had received over this 2009 and 2010 period was unaccounted for. That money had to go somewhere as it is unlikely that it was misplaced or physically destroyed. This is just one instance. There are many others.
   Similarly, when I looked up what the net worth of Kim Jong Un, the 31 year old Supreme Leader of North Korea, was, the figure $5 billion came up, as in “may be worth as much as.” He’s been in office for three years. How did he accumulate so much cash so quickly? Inheritance?  According to the South Korean news organization Chosun Ilbo, the money comes from state-run enterprises as well as sales of narcotics, counterfeiting, and other types of criminality (no doubt there’s some high level malicious mischief going on as well). Appropriating funds from state-run enterprises is a definition of corruption. Using state funds to sponsor criminal activity (criminal activity as considered by any country other than North Korea. Inside North Korea the sales of narcotics and counterfeiting by the government may be considered hunky dory, just as campaign contributions are in the U.S.) is another form.  
   I’m not exactly sure how this information is gathered. These rankings, especially for the most corrupt nations, are presented, followed by a qualification that it is extremely difficult to get any information about the inner workings of these countries. So one has to wonder.
   They probably get it from the National Security Agency (NSA). They know everything.
   FYI, a quality of life index provided by Numbeo, which rates the different countries by such factors as cost of living and purchasing power, affordability of housing, pollution including air, water, etc., crime rates, health system quality, and traffic (commute times), aligns itself with the corruption index quite well, with all of the top five least corrupt countries appearing in the top twelve countries with the highest quality of life factors. Switzerland, a federal multi-party directorial republic with elements of direct democracy, leads the list with a whopping 208.51 on the Quality of Life Index. I’m happy to report that the United States, a corporatocracy with tendencies leaning between a plutocracy and oligarchy (a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people) is second in the index with 187.79, followed by Germany (Federal parliamentary constitutional republic) at 186.61, Finland at 182.64, Sweden at 176.56, Canada (federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy rather than a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy) at 172.94, Australia (another federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy) at 166.68, Denmark at 165.60, New Zealand at 164.24, the United Arab Emirates (a federal hereditary absolute monarchy... in other words a dictatorship) at 160.99, Austria (a federal parliamentary republic) at 160.72, and Norway at 160.51. 
   I’m almost positive you’ll be happy to hear that Canada has the highest traffic commute time index rating at 39.49. Way to go Canada people!
   Anyway, I know many people who are offended by the idea that the United States of America is corrupt at all. 
    I don’t know how to put it more delicately, the government of the United States is corrupt, by any definition of the word. From local municipalities and police forces (this is something I found about about by watching John Oliver. Police throughout the country have been seizing million of dollars in assets from people who were never charged with a crime. They use this money to buy anything from gum ball machines, to surveillance equipment, to military style weapons they can use against their own citizens when the terrorists invade the USA. One former Justice Department official told the Washington Post the money amounts to a “slush fund,” which is defined as a reserve of money used for illicit purposes, especially political bribery. The police have been doing this for years and getting away with it as it’s legal under the  federal civil asset forfeiture law. This is what the DOJ says about it: “The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program encompasses the seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate federal crimes. The primary mission of the Program is to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security. This is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society. Asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals.” But local police have their own interpretations. Imagine driving down a highway, minding your own business, far from home. A cop pulls you over for speeding, let’s say. Or a broken taillight, whatever. He asks for your license and registration. He gives you a ticket. He then asks you if you are carrying a large amount of cash with you. Well, that’s not illegal, and you might get in trouble by lying to the cop about the $25,000 in cash you have on you to by a new car and settle in to a new residence, and for some reason you forgot to get traveler’s checks, or you didn’t want to hassle with them, whatever. The cop asks to see the money, then takes it, then tells you he is going to confiscate the cash because he suspects you of participating in an illegal activity, probably something to do with drugs. The cop doesn’t have to prove anything, he doesn’t have to arrest you. He can just take your cash because he suspects something. The police are allowed to keep 80% of what they seize which provides a healthy motive to seize as much as possible, as fast as possible. Welcome to America immigrant people. Fortunately current police scrutiny has shined a spotlight on the ”practice” of asset forfeiture creating a counter pressure to cease and desist it’s rampant and unwarranted use), all the way up to the Oval Office.
   I found this paragraph in last year’s December 22nd post “Congress’s Christmas Present to America, which can be found here
   “By all objective measures, this is the worst Congress ever,” Tom Mann, a senior governance fellow at Washington’s Brookings Institution, said of the 113th. “But there are two main things: Important matters not addressed and destructive things done, like October’s government shutdown. They did a lot of stuff of no consequence. All the important stuff, they couldn’t get done.”
   And this year the Republicans inexplicably garnered enough election victories to keep the House of Representatives and win the Senate!
   It just goes to show... one can actually fail their way to the top.
   And gerrymandering (a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts) helps a bit as well.
   Oh, what was Congresses Christmas present to America last year? A $28 billion government shutdown, and the cessation of unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed.  
   Merry Christmas.
   And the Republicans who caused these two things still won Congress. 
   Not only that, there will be more Republican governors than at any point in the past 20 years,  while 11 state legislatures turned to the dark side, er... I mean Republican. Republicans picked  up governorships in traditionally Democratic states such as Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois, as well as in Arkansas. The election put the total number of Republican governors at 31, Democrats with 18, and one Independent. The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers, the most they’ve had in the history of the party. Republicans completely control 24 states (the governorship and both houses of the state legislature), while Democrats control in only seven.
   For the women in those 24 states, look forward to more and more and more abortion restrictions, and the shutting down of abortion clinics in general. If you’re legally dead and pregnant the state will keep you on life support in order for you to give birth, then they will forget about the child. Pervert photographers will legally be able to take “up-skirt” pictures of you. You will continue to get paid less then men for the same work. Your boss will determine if you can get birth control supplies from work place insurance. If you do need abortion services and happen to find a clinic that is operational protesters will get to yell at you as you enter. If you’re a pregnant drug user you may go to jail rather than receive treatment. If you’re black and female and try to defend your life with a gun you may get 60 years in prison. 
   You get what you vote for.
   Okay, so much for the American people and voters. They should live in a world where they don’t have to keep up with the political situation in Washington D.C. Who has the time? I mean with having to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet ("You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." -President George W Bush to a divorced mother of three,  Feb. 4th 2005. His display of empathy overwhelms), folks should be able to kick back and relax after a hard day’s work. 
   Anyway, back to corruption.
   On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people believe the United States is the most corrupt nation on the planet, like Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan Juan Cole, who either has it in for the United States, or utilizes a criteria which is markedly different than that of TI.
   He makes the argument that since the US economy is worth over $16 trillion a year, a lot more money changes hands due to corruption than in other countries. And he would be right. 
   What else leads him to his conclusion? 
   First off he makes a point I would have made if I had thought of it first, that due to the long, drawn out election process, and the expenses involved in running for office, and the slew of money that donors are legally able to give to candidates and their campaigns due to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, arguably one of the worst decisions for the country since Bush v. Gore in 2000, that politicians are essentially on the take, the rule of thumb being, according to Nate Thames, a Political Director at ActBlue (a Democratic political action committee... PAC), US House incumbents need to raise roughly $10,000 a week starting the day they are elected. I would say that is a conservative estimate. In any case that’s roughly what a crack or heroin addict needs to maintain their addiction. They raise this money in a variety of ways. 10 hours or more a week directly on the phone to donors. Events, PAC events, direct mail. One would hope that after a politician is elected they would spend their time doing the work of the people rather than begging for money, but apparently it’s not like that. And large donors, they’re not giving away money through the kindness of their little pea picking hearts, oh no. Eventually, in some form, they’re going to want something from said politician in return. In any case again, this leverage donors have over elected officials is simply untenable. They can virtually control that official after they are in office by threatening to withhold funds during the next election cycle, or threaten to finance their opponent who promises to do the bidding of the donor. That is why public financing of elections should be mandatory. There is just too much cash floating around the election process, a huge amount of dark money, from PACs who don’t disclose their contributors (so anybody could be financing our elections, even foreign entities. The thought of Kim Jong un or Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, deciding who our next Senator or President is going to be is rather alarming, to say the least. 
   And don’t think for a minute that election fundraising, or fundraising for other issues or people, is limited to Congress.
   President Obama needs to raise $500,000 for his Presidential Library. He raised $712,000 to get reelected in 2012. A major part of his job description, any president’s, is fundraising, either for himself or others. No wonder he favors and kowtows to special interests, like the banks of Wall St.
  Is this really how we want our country to work? Is this what the Founding Fathers envisioned?  
   Unfortunately those who are the only one’s that can do something about the huge amounts of money influencing politicians are the very same politicians who are being influenced. 
   Like the crack and heroin addicts of folklore, politicians are addicted to money, and the perceived power that their office holds, which is maintained by money.
   And if anyone doubts the above, just remember things like this: 
   In 1996, Bob Herbert wrote about Boehner dishing out checks from the tobacco industry to his fellow Republicans on the House floor, “One day last summer Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference, decided to play Santa Claus. Perhaps he was bored. Debates were being conducted on such issues as funding for foreign operations and a proposal to amend the Constitution to outlaw desecration of the flag. In any event, Mr. Boehner took it upon himself to begin handing out money from tobacco lobbyists to certain of his colleagues on the House floor.”
   Professor Cole next observes that politicians can be, and are bribed, if not outright as in Boehner’s case, then with campaign contributions, or “gifts” from lobbyists, although that is harder to do currently under new regulations Congress was forced to adhere itself to, only because of egregious instances of blatant and obvious graft between industry representatives and members of Congress (President Obama has spoken out numerous times against the influence of lobbying in this country. He also co-sponsored legislation that limits lobbyists' influence by mandating that lawmakers pay full charter fare when flying on lobbyist’s corporate jets. Still one has to wonder what are lawmakers doing flying on the corporate jets of lobbyists?). Still, we have powerful conglomerates like Comcast which is currently attempting a $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, which needs to be approved by regulators. The company has employed some forty lobbying firms to influence Washington politicians, and offered up cash donations to 32 of the 39 members of the House Judiciary Committee (this must be in the form of campaign contributions) that recently held hearings on the merger. In my mind this is nothing short of bribery. The only reason this is deemed “legal” is because the lawmakers that are being bribed have made it “legal.”
   Cole points out the financial industry as an example: “Billions were spent and 3,000 lobbyists employed by bankers to remove cumbersome rules in the zeroes. Thus, political corruption enabled financial corruption (in some cases legalizing it!) Without regulations and government auditing, the finance sector went wild and engaged in corrupt practices that caused the 2008 crash.”
   As a result of that financial crisis the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into federal law by the President on July 21st, 2010. It made changes 
in the regulatory system employed by the government, namely that it created one, that affected all federal financial regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the e Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which in turn would affect most parts of America’s financial services industry. 
   Guess what? America’s financial service industries don’t like being regulated, and their allies in Congress, namely  the Republican Party, which has always championed deregulation as a means to allow a free market to operate without hindrance, the result being the Wall Street Crash of 1929 which led to the Great Depression (for those of you to young to know of the Great Depression, it was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II, starting in 1930 and lasting until the late 1930s or middle 1940s. The depression originated in the United States and had devastating effects in countries with large economies and small. America experienced a 25% unemployment rate (with some countries reaching 33%). Wages and salaries, the countries tax revenue, business profits, and deflation occurred. Trade with other nations dropped by half. This is what occurs when Republican economic models are adhered to), and the Great Republican Recession which followed on the heals of the financial crisis of 2007–08.   
    The  cromnibus spending bill that Congress and the President agreed to last December in order to keep the federal government funded and operating, repeals parts of the Dodd-Frank Act which was partially designed to stop Wall St. firms from gambling on the market with other people’s money, namely yours and mine. In other words these same Wall St. firms that created the 2007/08 financial crisis, who required to be bailed out by the American public as they were deemed “too big to fail”  and rescued only to stay in business to foreclose on homes for the same public that had helped to bail them out. Dodd-Frank had barred banks from using commercial deposits, which are insured by the federal government, to follow the same practices that ruined the nation and the world’s economy. But Dodd -Frank put a damper on Wall St. profits (look at Bankers and the neuro science of greed, here), so the  Street’s lobbyists have been pushing to roll it back, and they’ve been successful. 
   The new legislation, actually written in part by associates of Wall Street’s biggest bank,  Citigroup, allows the big banks to continue on the very same path that brought the world to it’s knees just seven years ago. This increases the liklihood another financial crisis is in store for us, and that these very same banks do this with the assuredness that the American taxpayer will bail them out again if need be.  
   The senior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Ann Warren, was rather piqued about this last minute addition to the spending bill provided by... well nobody is admitting to including it, although we know who drafted it, Citigroup. I suppose no one is taking credit for adding this because they don’t wish to implicated in helping to bring about the next financial crisis. Good thinking! Anyway, Mrs. Warren may have been down right upset about this, and threatened to hold up the entire spending bill because of this single addition. Don’t take my word for it. Here she is explaining how she felt. 
   The only reason she didn’t place a hold on the bill (any single Senator can place a hold on a pending bill for any reason) is that if she had the government would have shut down, which she didn’t want to be responsible for, and what the Republicans were counting on.
   Sneaky bastards!
   So what’s the answer? What can we do to rid ourselves, or at least decrease the level of corruption in the United States? I think the answer is quite clear and staring us in the face. Obviously we need to adopt a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy form of government. I know what you’re thinking. It will be hard, but it must be done for the good of us all. 
   Who should be the king, or queen? Good question! 
   I categorically reject the idea that there are natural, hereditary claims to that title by certain dynastic families in the United States, such as the Roosevelts, Clintons, and Bushes (although a case could be made for Grace Hannah Roosevelt Dworkin). They’ve had their chance, or chances, and in many cases have been found wanting.    
   In ancient times kings ascended by right of conquest. Considering the established military and state militias within the country, that route seems unlikely. 
   The Act of Settlement of 1701 applies mostly to England and is not suitable in this country.
   Yet our pale British cousins have offered us a solution which is firmly embedded within their ancient folklore. I propose that a sword be steadfastly and magically affixed within a stone of considerable size and mass, and certain nominated members of the general populace be given the chance to remove said sword from said stone, he or she who accomplishes this task becoming the winner of the crown. 
   I would nominate Kate Micucci, half of the musical duo Garfunkel and Oats. I can’t think of anyone more qualified than a puppet loving, pajama clad, ukulele and kazoo virtuoso, who draws stick figure pictures and builds sculptured sand castles, while writing and singing songs about anal sex and hand jobs. She certainly can’t do any worse than any of the recent so-called leaders this country has spewed out in recent years, and more than likely a lot better.
   All hail Queen Kate! May she rule and live forever!