Sepp Blatter was reelected today to a fifth term as president of FIFA

May 29, 2015

<a href=”http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/29/us-soccer-fifa-arrests-idUSKBN0OC0B020150529″>Reuters</a&gt; is reporting,
<blockquote>Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after the only other candidate conceded defeat after a first round of voting in an election overshadowed by allegations of corruption in world soccer.

Blatter’s victory came despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged the world soccer body into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Neither Blatter nor Jordanian challenger Prince Ali bin Al Hussein got the necessary two thirds of the vote in the first round, with Blatter on 133 and Prince Ali on 73. Prince Ali later conceded.

In a victory speech, Blatter declared: “Let’s go FIFA, let’s go FIFA,” to a standing ovation.

/snip/

While Asian, African and Latin American states had been expected to rally around Blatter, Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to a World Cup’s final match, had been keen for him to step aside.

On a visit to Berlin, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Blatter to go “the sooner the better”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the dirty side of soccer must be cleaned up.</blockquote>

I do not see anything encouraging about this development, although I cannot say I am surprised. FIFA corruption is wide, deep and no secret. I believe Blatter’s reelection confirms that, even though he was not indicted by the federal grand jury that indicted 17 others earlier this week.

For more information on the federal indictment go here to read my article, <a href=”http://firedoglake.com/2015/05/27/memo-to-us-attorney-general-loretta-lynch-more-indictments-like-fifa-please/”><em>Memo to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch: More Indictments Like FIFA Please</em></a>.

Speaking of corruption, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R), who was selected to replace <a href=”http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/05/livingstons_decision_to_give_u.html”>Bob Livingston (R)</a> who withdrew his name from consideration after being selected to replace Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House for corruption problems, was indicted this week for structuring multiple cash transactions in amounts less than $10,000 in order to evade the IRS requirement that cash transactions exceeding $10,000 must be reported to the IRS

Why did he do that? According to the indictment he was paying off someone to keep quiet about something he did during the 60s when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach.

And what might that have been? Reports this afternoon on MSNBC say that two unnamed government sources say it had to do sex.

And Hastert was picked to be Speaker of the House because he was ‘squeeky clean.’

I can’t figure out whether to throw up or pop some corn and watch the news.


Memo to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch: More Indictments Like FIFA Please

May 27, 2015

[Skip the first minute which is a pitch to renew the Patriot Act]

Our new Attorney General of the United States, Loretta Lynch, made a big announcement today and I am not talking about another agreement with a criminal bank that agrees to pay a pithy multi-million-dollar fine without admitting it did anything wrong.

At a press conference this morning, Lynch announced the unsealing of a new 47-count indictment charging 14 world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, with racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud. Four of those accused, including two sports marketing companies, have already pleaded guilty and are likely to be cooperating. From the Washington Post,

Among the “alleged schemes,” said the Justice Department, were kickbacks to FIFA officials by executives and companies involved in soccer marketing and “bribes and kickbacks in connection” with “the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.” FIFA is the French abbreviation for the international Federation of Football Associations, the global governing body of soccer.

Swiss prosecutors, in a related announcement, said they had opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The separate Swiss probe includes “electronic data and documents” seized at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, the Swiss prosecutor’s office said. Swiss police said they will question at least 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010 that named Russia and Qatar as host nations for the next two tournaments.

/snip/

Those charged, the Justice Department said, “include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

“Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner — the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States — are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses,” the Justice Department said.

The indictment was unsealed after Swiss police arrested six members of FIFA’s governing body. The New York Times captured the moment.

The lobby of the Baur au Lac, a 171-year-old five-star hotel here in downtown Zurich, was serene in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Bundles of newspapers were tossed on the front doorstep. A cleaner wearing a black uniform buffed the marble floors. The concierge fielded a call from a guest asking whether a local pharmacy could deliver medicine.

Then, when its Swiss clocks struck 6, more than a dozen law enforcement officers in street clothes entered without a fuss through a revolving door at the front of the hotel. They headed straight to the front desk, where they presented government documents and demanded the room numbers of some of the most high-profile officials in soccer, who were staying at the hotel ahead of the annual meeting of FIFA, the sport’s global governing body.

Suddenly, the venerable Baur au Lac, a way station for musicians, artists and royalty, and, the hotel says, the place where the Nobel Peace Prize was born, was transformed into something akin to a crime scene. The concierge was instructed to call one executive’s room, and one of the most significant takedowns in international sports history was under way.

“Sir,” the concierge said in English, “I’m just calling you to say that we’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.”

/snip/

While the arrests went seamlessly, chaos ensued at the Baur au Lac’s front desk. Just minutes after news of the operation broke, the phone began to ring incessantly. At the same time, the officers began returning to the front desk to ask for access to other parts of the hotel.

“Sir, we don’t have any information — please call later,” the concierge said to a caller before slamming the phone down.

/snip/

After all the arrests were complete, a hulking man in a suit arrived at the front desk. He asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of one of the FIFA executives.

“His wife doesn’t know what to do or where he is,” the man said.

By 9 a.m., the hotel, which had hosted a wedding the night before, was blanketed by private security guards. Outside, reporters gathered and set up cameras for live television shots. Inside, the wives and girlfriends of the men who had been arrested sat together in an ornate lounge off the main foyer. The women crowded around a computer and watched an Internet stream of Walter de Gregorio, FIFA’s chief spokesman, as he addressed a news conference at the governing body’s headquarters just a few miles down the road. As de Gregorio spoke about how, in his opinion, this was actually “a good day” for FIFA — because ridding the organization of corruption is a priority — the women leaned closer. One of them began to cry.

And now for my contribution. The basis for federal jurisdiction is the defendants allegedly conducted meetings in the United States, used US banks to wire money around, used the US postal service to communicate with each other as well as email and used phones to discuss their dirty business.

They obviously did not see this coming.

Conspicuously left out of the indictment is Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA. His freedom may be short-lived, however, as he has been the subject of much speculation that he ran the pay-to-play scheme. With defendants expected to fall like dominoes for cooperation agreements to testify against others, both known and unknown to the grand jury, he may find that he has something to cry about.

Oh, and one more thing. His recent announcement that he would not revisit the decisions to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. may end up being, how can I say this diplomatically, ah yes, revisited

Oh, and another question: Are the NFL owners, NBA owners and NCAA reaching for the Rolaids and calling their lawyers?

Will the NSA and or FBI be listening?

Seven officials arrested today:

1. Rafael Esquivel

2. Nicolas Leoz

3. Jeffrey Webb

4. Jack Warner

5. Eduardo Li

6. Eugenio Figueredo

7. Jose Maria Marin

FYI: John Oliver roasted Sepp Blatter on his HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight. Here’s most of it:


Texas Court of Criminal Appeals soils itself again

May 25, 2015

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals soiled itself again after its recent shameful refusal to find Dan and Frances Keller innocent of sexually assaulting children during satanic rituals in their Austin day care center case despite not a shred of physical evidence to support the fantastical false allegations. I wrote about the Keller case here.

This time they suspended David Dow from practicing in their court for a year for missing a deadline that he did not miss. He is the founder of the Texas Innocence Network and the leading death penalty lawyer in the state. Wrongfully convicted innocent clients on death row are depending on him to save their lives. He’s the best shot they have.

Mimi Schwartz of the Texas Monthly describes what happened.

It isn’t easy to get a stay of execution; attorneys have to present the court with a substantial amount of information to win a delay, much less a new trial. For instance, in September 2014 Dow began looking into the case of Miguel Paredes, who was sent to death row for a gang-related killing in 2001. Paredes’s execution date was set for October 28, 2014. In the 39 days before the execution, Dow’s team—which was working on three other death penalty cases at the time—traveled to San Antonio (where Paredes grew up and the crime was committed) and to Livingston (where he was incarcerated in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice). They searched for additional witnesses. They scoured Paredes’s medical, psychological, school, and prison records. They pored over the trial transcript. In doing so, they uncovered what Paredes’s lawyer had not: evidence that the killing was actually in self-defense. Dow’s team also found that Paredes had a history of mental illness and that the state had put him on powerful psychotropic medication during his trial. The jury hadn’t known any of this, and during the punishment phase, Paredes, drugged and hopeless, instructed his lawyer to waive his right to present mitigating circumstances that might spare his life.

Eleventh-hour appeals—the kind you see in the movies—no longer happen. The CCA needs time to evaluate the record and any new information. Dow filed all of his pleadings in Paredes’s case by 6:30 p.m. on October 21, 2014, in compliance with rule 11-003, which says that pleadings requesting a stay must be filed seven days before an execution date. The judges took exactly two days to deny Dow’s motion. Paredes was put to death, right on schedule.

In November, however, the CCA sent a notice to Dow asking him to appear in court on January 14 to explain why he should not be sanctioned for filing Paredes’s documents late. Dow found this mystifying; he had filed his plea after-hours on October 21, but late filings on death penalty cases are actually fairly routine. There is even a part of the rule that addresses it, which Dow had followed, explaining in his motion that he was still gathering evidence even at that late date to try to save Paredes’s life.

Dow appeared at the hearing without counsel. He explained again why the filing had been late, even though it really hadn’t been. (Instead of relying on the rule itself, the judges seemed to be claiming that Dow had been late according to an example described in the rule, which seemed to suggest that pleadings should be filed eight, not seven, days before: “For example, a request for a stay of execution filed at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning when the execution is scheduled for the following Wednesday at 6 p.m. is untimely.”)

He has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. God only knows what that puzzle palace will do.

 


Why do people persist in voting against their self-interest?

May 24, 2015

If people voted in their own self-interest, the Republican Party would never come close to getting 1% of the vote. It would fade away into an obscure footnote in history. That will be its destiny, if people make it their business to find out what is going on in this country. The simple truth is the rich and the corporations they own, including the thieving Wall Street banks, are looting this country, eliminating the middle class and enslaving everyone in debt.

Trickle-down economics is not working, never has worked, and never will work. Anyone who believes that it will is willfully ignorant, stupid, or both.

The Republican Party represents the best interests of the 1% of the 1% and they do not give a damn about anyone else. They realize that they have to suppress voting, rig outcomes and convince people to vote against their own best interests or they will never win another election.

Greed is their undoing because they are creating a vast lower class made up of everyone who is not rich. Sooner or later all of us will realize we have more in common with each other, regardless of race, color, religion or national origin.

Let’s do everything in our power to make it sooner rather than later.

Here’s are two interesting reads about ‘white fragility, ‘white privilege,’ and the need to eliminate them.

What do you think?


Judge bizarrely acquits Cleveland police officer of voluntary manslaughter

May 23, 2015

In a bizarre miscarriage of justice today, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Officer Michael Brelo of two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were chased and gunned down by police after the vehicle in which they were riding accidentally backfired as they were driving past police headquarters. They were unarmed.

62 police vehicles participated in the ensuing 22 mile chase that reached speeds over 100 mph.

Thirteen officers, including Brelo, fired 137 shots into the vehicle. Russell had 23 bullet wounds and Williams had 24. Prosecutors said they only charged Brelo because he jumped up on the hood of the vehicle after it stopped and fired 15 shots through the windscreen into their bodies after they were no longer a threat, but still alive.

NBC reports,

[Judge] O’Donnell said that while he found beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo caused at least one fatal wound to Williams’ chest, he couldn’t determine that the other fatal shots came from his gun.

“One or two other officers inflicted” the others, O’Donnell said, and therefore, he couldn’t find Brelo guilty of Williams’ death.

Judge O’Donnell also found that Brelo acted improperly when he jumped up on the hood of the car

Given these findings, I think he should have convicted Brelo of voluntary manslaughter for the death of Williams. If two or more people fire fatal shots (i.e., that would have caused death), each is guilty of killing the victim even if the ME can’t tell which shot actually killed the victim. That’s basic criminal law.

What do you think?

Here’s the judge’s 35 page decision.

To follow on Twitter: #Brelo


Jahar Tsarnaev finally cries in court today

May 4, 2015

Jahar Tsarnaev finally displayed emotion in court today when his Aunt Patimat Suleimanova took the stand to testify on his behalf in the penalty phase. She is his mother’s older sister. As soon as she took the stand, she began hyperventilating and sobbing hysterically. She was unable to speak and had to be excused. As she left the witness stand, Jahar began to cry. That is the first time during the trial that he has displayed any emotion.

Today was devoted to family witnesses who traveled from Russia to testify on his behalf. We learned a lot about his parents, particularly the change his mother, Zubeidat, went through after she transformed into a Muslim fundamentalist who cast aside her jewelry and wardrobe of colorful clothes and started wearing the hijab. Unfortunately, none of the witnesses have had any contact with Jahar since he was 8-years-old. They described a happy and beautiful boy whom everyone loved.

The defense also elicited evidence that the eldest brother in Chechnya culture occupies a position of authority in family life relative to the siblings and this would have been true in the Tsarnaev family. Jahar has been described by a female college friend as a follower and not a group decision maker.

Difficult to tell how this testimony affected the jury.

I was touched today by this statement from Becki Norris, one of Jahar’s teachers.

“I have discovered the painful truth that when you care deeply for someone, that does not stop even when he does unfathomably horrible things.”

Her statement perfectly captures today’s testimony.


I love the smell of capitalism burning in the morning

May 2, 2015

Ray Schultz, the former police chief of the embattled Albuquerque Police Department that the DOJ is investigating, has been accused of improperly accepting perks and consulting work from Taser International in return for assisting the company to be awarded a lucrative $1.95 million no-bid contract to supply the department with body cameras. His accuser is the New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller who recently completed an audit of the department. Keller says Schultz started working as a consultant for Taser International when he was still employed and being paid as the police chief.

Amy Connolly of the UPI reports,

The state auditor’s office found Schultz and others in the police department received a number of perks from Taser as they helped secure the contract, including tickets to a party at a San Diego nightclub, an all-expenses paid trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., for training and speaking engagements in Texas.

“The contracts between the city and Taser circumvented the competitive process, or, in former APD Chief Raymond Shultz’s own words, the process was ‘greased.’ The taxpayers are not well served when the process is gamed by our leaders,” Keller said.

Schultz denies wrongdoing.

I love the smell of capitalism burning in the morning.


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