April 8, 2005: There's plenty of good in the world. There's also plenty of
the other. Even those who believe Pope John Paul II lives in
Heaven can't help but mourn his absence on earth. While
simultaneously experiencing gifts he left behind.
To doubt good exists would mean being willfully blind; a
Pangloss in reverse. The good is easily seen in myriad day-to-day
interchanges between people, but more difficult to discern in
the larger actions of government. Not that good doesn't exist
in that sphere. But copious grains of salt must be taken when
considering what Caesar sets before us.
Pope John Paul II repeatedly thwarted political leaders who hoped
to obtain his perpetual nihil obstat. Just when he seemed solidly
in the camp of either right or left, he'd whip the ideological
rug from beneath their feet and cite a higher authority. To
political leaders who either believe there is no authority
higher than themselves, or if there is, they are its earthly
manifestation, this was decidedly aggravating. Many a worldly
pomp departed fuming from an audience with the Pope. A few days
later pundits in pomp support publications, or on pomp-talk TV,
would lecture the Pope. Telling him to "get real". Thank goodness
he never listened and stayed unreal. Though really real might be
a better way to put it.
In the United States, Pope John Paul's commitment to traditional
Catholic sexual morality made him the anger object of a left that
now defines itself by bedroom issues. And initially the right
thought anti communism was going to make him their boy. Till he
came down hard on the excesses of capitalism. The Pope's last
big affront to the right was when he called the Iraq War by its
correct name: unjustifiable.
Speaking of which, perhaps lack of public support for President
Bush's proposed Social Security reforms is partly due to the fact
that his main justification for invading Iraq-- the presence of
WMD-- was at best based on wrong info. Americans can accept
foreign policy based on a mistake, or even a Big Lie, but when
a major overhaul of a popular domestic program is pushed
by someone with a record of gaining public approval via
misinformation, they hear danger danger Will Robinson. Plus
promises of the financial benefits of privatization are
reminiscent of expectations that apres Iraq, gas was going
to flow like cheap wine. While to my knowledge President Bush
himself never made this promise, pomp support groupies certainly
fed that assumption.
If missing WMD does figure into rejection of the Bush Social
Security plan it would be a case of chickens coming home to roost
in a different coop.
Like many, I'm undecided about how Social Security problems
should be remedied. Once upon a time I'd have had more faith in
privatization. And in the days before that, big government. Now
I believe our government should be radically smaller. And that
taxpayers might have more natural social security if they weren't
paying for items such as revitalizing Iraq and HUD fraud ad
nauseam. But I also believe government can do some things well
and should provide a safety net for the truly needy. And that
what government does do, should be open to scrutiny by the
public. Increasingly, public corruption stems from non government
agencies working with government ones; providing public services
but operating behind the curtain of privatization.
But enough of typical blog topics. Let's get down to nitty
gritties on some local fronts.
In Springfield, Massachusetts almost every second home seems
to hold an X public servant under house arrest. Delivery services
clean up but overall, the scene is getting stale. Assistant U.S.
Attorney William Welch has a creative solution. At the early
April sentencing of X city employee and school lunch man Alfonso
Carrano, who stole payments made by vending machine companies to
the school department, Welch suggested Carrano be forced to stand
in front of the school he robbed wearing a sandwich board
declaiming his crimes. U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor didn't
grant the request, but did say he might require sandwich boards
to be worn by future corruption convictees. Though U.S. Attorney
Welch modestly ceded his fashion inspiration came from another
federal case in California, U.S. Attorney Christopher "Shackles"
Christie in New Jersey may soon have to defend his title as the
Iron Chef of white collar crime wear.
Also starring in Sentenced in Springfield is X police officer
Chester Ardolino, whose brother Anthony Ardolino was chief of
staff to former Mayor Mike Albano. In late March, Chet Ardolino
got a package of house arrest, community service and probation
for taking part in a real estate scam allegedly launched in the
City Hall office of Anthony Ardolino. As "special police liaison"
to the Mayor, Chet often hung in the hall. Whether on a hook or
a hangar is unknown. The scam was the usual dummy up documents,
inflate value & flip thing. Anthony Ardolino allegedly received
a third of the profits just cause he was friends with Mayor
Mike. Once Chet Ardolino wraps up house arrest and sallies
forth for community service, he might be super model material
for a sandwich board.
While the Ardolino mortgage fraud was relatively small spud, on
April Fool's Day arrests were made in connection to another much
larger Springfield real estate fraud case. One which has been
unspooling since last Fall. A multi million dollar deal cut from
familiar cloth-- involving a man of the cloth. It goes like this:
HUD slums. Straw buyers with no down payment & phoney proof of
income. Non existent rehabs. Fake appraisals & closing documents.
Participants paid in cash & hidden interests in yet more deals.
Inflated mortgage loans from out of state lenders. Straw buyers
default. FHA aka taxpayer picks up tab.
Among the 13 indicted to date is Pastor Paul J. Starnes of
the Morning Star Church. Owner and operator of Trinity Mortgage
Brokerage, Inc. One time partner in Trinity Land, Co., which
bought and sold properties in the Springfield area. Also indicted
is illegal alien Wilfred Changasie of Guyana. Recently of
Springfield. Who allegedly worked his way up from being a mere
gleaner of straw buyers, to full partner. Another indictee is
attorney Albert Innarelli. He allegedly served as the primary,
though not only, real estate attorney for the flips.
What with the school guy, the cop, the pastor, the lawyer(s)
and the entrepreneurial illegal alien, recent events in
Springfield involve folks from such a broad social spectrum that
one wonders if the wearing o' the sandwich boards in Springfield
might produce infernally crowded sidewalks.
OK. The corruption level in Springfield, Massachusetts is a tad
extreme. But not unique. See some cities in New Jersey, New York
and Connecticut. In fact, look at urban centers all over the USA
and see what you see. Old friend graft of course. Yet equally
hard to miss is the massive amount of HUD bucked mortgage fraud.
Why? Because nihil obstat. Not only is a whole lot of potential
social security being flipped into the hands of crooks, but more
people across a broad social spectrum are being encouraged to
become crooks by the ease of doing so. Since cities have more
concentrations of HUD properties, the impact of mortgage fraud is
also more concentrated. Urban real estate practices aren't born
bad-- they just get painted that way by U.S. housing policy.
Westward Ho the Sandwich Boards
On April 7th, in Middletown, New York, Mayor Joseph DeStefano
was found guilty of misdemeanor charges related to community
development deals. DeStefano lied on ethics forms about his
involvement with city businesses receiving HUD funds. Orange
County Judge Stewart Rosenwasser tossed out more intensive
conspiracy charges against DeStefano, the city's director of
economic development and a city judge. State law requires
DeStefano resign. But will he? On March 23rd, in Hudson County,
New Jersey, X County Executive Robert Janiszewski gasped as his
long delayed sentence for long time grafting turned out to be
more time than expected. U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano
didn't buy the claim by the defense-- and prosecutors-- that wire
trapped Bobby was a brave whistle blower. In Monmouth County,
where 14 public servants (so far) have been indicted in a federal
corruption probe, a public hearing by the state Judiciary
Committee is in the works. "When you have that many people in one
county indicted it suggests the problem is pervasive" says State
Senator John Adler of Camden. Camden. CAMDEN. Adler also wants to
see if the State Attorney General's Office needs more resources.
Some think an AG might prove helpful. Also in Jersey, the state
Division of Gaming Enforcement has issued a subpoena to former
New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Info sought has
to do with Kerik's dealings with allegedly mobbed up Frank and
Peter DiTommaso of New Jersey based Interstate Industrial,
Interstate Drywall, Interstate etc. Kerik's attorney has moved
to quash. One of the lesser Sandwich Islands.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"Q: Who made the world? A: God made the world."
Baltimore Catechism, 1885
"No paradise is complete without its snake."
P.M. Hubbard, High Tide, 1970
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