Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judy Miller Agrees To Testify In CIA Leak Case

Oh, Judy:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After being locked up for nearly three months in jail, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released on Thursday after agreeing to testify before a grand jury investigating who in the Bush administration leaked a covert CIA operative's name.

Miller said in a statement issued by the newspaper that she was freed after her source "voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations." The Times identified her source as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby.

Miller agreed to appear on Friday before the grand jury, which has been investigating who in the administration leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Miller met with Libby on July 8, 2003, the newspaper said, and talked with him by telephone later that week.

She was released from the Alexandria Detention Center just outside Washington after she and her lawyers met at the jail with Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the case, to discuss her testimony to the grand jury.

Legal sources said Miller's testimony appeared to clear the way for Fitzgerald to wrap up his case, which could shake up an administration already reeling from criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina and Wednesday's indictment of House Republican leader Tom DeLay.

The leak investigation has ensnarled President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove as well as Libby.

Miller, who was sent to jail on July 6 though she never wrote an article about the Plame matter, said her attorneys had reached agreement with Fitzgerald "regarding the nature and scope of my testimony, which satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources."

A spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment.

Boy, not a good week for the GOP.

First the SEC investigation of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's alleged insider trading goes from informal to formal. Then House Majority Leader Tom Delay gets indicted on conspiracy to launder money charges and is forced to step down. The three guys who murdered Gus Boulis, the former owner of Sun Cruz Casinos before GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff bought it, were arrested this week and they may be connected to Abramoff through his business partner, Adam Kidan. A judge also ordered the Bush administration to release the rest of the Abu Ghraib photos within 20 days. And now Judy has agreed to testify before the CIA leak grand jury, meaning Fitzgerald will be issuing his indictments in less than four weeks.

Gee, I wonder how the wankers at the Note will spin this in the morning.

Oh, wait...I know. They'll say, "Sure the entire GOP leadership is going to the pokey and Bush's agenda is deader than Tom Delay's career as Majority Leader, but Democrats still don't have an agenda so nah, nah!!!"

And while the Noters may be right when they say Dems don't really stand for anything, they're forgetting just what it is the Republicans stand for in people's minds these days:


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An Early Christmas Gift: Framed Tom Delay Mugshots

From the Associated Press:

The next step in the criminal proceedings against Republican leader Tom DeLay is a trip to Austin to be fingerprinted and photographed.

DeLay was indicted Wednesday on one count of criminal conspiracy for his alleged role in a campaign finance scheme that helped give Republicans power in the Texas House and in Congress.

DeLay's attorneys were working out the details of when the 11-term congressman would return to Texas in hopes of saving him from further embarrassment, they said.

"What we're trying to avoid is Ronnie Earle having him taken down in handcuffs, and fingerprinted and photographed. That's uncalled for and I don't think that's going to happen," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's attorney.

Earle, the Travis County district attorney, said it is up to the court to decide how DeLay would be arraigned.

It was not immediately clear whether DeLay would have to go through booking after responding to the summons for arraignment, said his attorney Bill White.

A bond amount would be set beforehand so Delay could immediately pay it and avoid a stay in jail. He also could waive going before a magistrate to have his rights and charges read to him, said Roger Wade, Travis County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

DeLay could go to trial in 90 days, which the defense said it favored. "We want a trial right away," DeGuerin said. "We want a trial by the end of the year."

Buck Wood, an attorney who represents Democrats suing some of the corporations that contributed to DeLay's PAC, said although it's difficult to go to trial quickly that may best serve DeLay.

"I can understand why Tom DeLay wants a quick trial, because politically (the indictment) paralyzes him," Wood said.

I'd like the Delay mugshots in 8X10 glossy photos suitable for framing, please.

I'm sentimental that way. And boy, oh boy do I want to remember the day the Bugman gets fingerprinted and photographed.

Hey, What Did I Do With My Cigar?

From Arianna at

If This Is Integrity...: Delay, Frist, Abramoff, Safavian... Wasn't this the crowd that was going to "restore honor and integrity" to Washington? If this is what integrity looks like, let's bring back Oval Office blow jobs.

Can't add much to that

The Bugman Indicteth and Other Tales Of GOP Corruption

I know I'm getting in late on this story, but oh joy, oh joy, oh joy!!! From the Washington Post:

A Texas grand jury indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) yesterday on charges of criminally conspiring with two political associates to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 state elections that helped the Republican Party reorder the congressional map in Texas and cement its control of the House in Washington.

The criminal indictment forced DeLay, one of the Republicans' most powerful leaders and fundraisers, to step aside under party rules barring such posts to those accused of criminal conduct. House Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the third-ranking leader, was elected by Republican House members yesterday afternoon to fill the spot temporarily after conservatives threatened a revolt against another candidate considered by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Although the indictment had been rumored for weeks among top Republicans, based on what several described as a difficult meeting in August between DeLay and the Texas prosecutor behind the case, it shook the GOP political establishment and posed new problems for the party as it heads into the midterm elections next year.

DeLay bitterly denounced the charges as baseless and defiantly called the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, "an unabashed partisan zealot" engaging in "personal revenge" because DeLay helped elect a Republican majority to the Texas House in 2002. "I have the facts, the law and the truth on my side," DeLay said, reading from a prepared statement, before declining to answer questions.

But the indictment, which comes after three rebukes of DeLay in 2004 by the House ethics committee on unrelated matters, poses a major political problem for the 58-year-old Bush administration loyalist, 11-term congressman, and self-described champion of free enterprise and deregulation. DeLay also faces a likely inquiry by the House ethics committee into a series of foreign trips he took that were initially partly paid for by lobbyists.

The indictment specifically alleges that DeLay, who helped organize the Texas political committee at the heart of the charges, participated in a conspiracy to funnel corporate money into the 2002 state election "with the intent that a felony be committed."

Using corporate funds for state election purposes has long been illegal in Texas, as it is in 17 other states. Earle's probe of the contributions began after 17 Republicans who received the committee's funds were elected, giving the party control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years. One year later, following a roadmap that DeLay and his political aides drafted from Washington, the Texas House approved a sweeping reorganization of the state's congressional district map meant to favor Republicans.

Then, in 2004, five more Texas Republicans were elected to Congress, enlarging the Republican majority in the House .


The new indictment came after a 34-month inquiry and was issued on the final day the grand jury met, capping a series of indictments that targeted eight corporations and an industry group, the Texas Association of Business, alleged to have worked with the Texas committee in collecting and disbursing illegal corporate contributions.

DeLay waived a requirement that the indictment be presented within three years of "the commission of the offense," the document states; DeGuerin said DeLay did this under duress so that he could put off an indictment weeks ago and keep trying to persuade Earle not to bring one.

Earle told reporters that he brought the indictment to defend the state's democratic system from undue corporate influence. "The law says the duty of a prosecutor is to make sure justice is done," Earle said, adding that the ban against corporate contributions "is intended to safeguard democracy and make the ballot box accessible to everybody, regardless of the amount of money involved."

In other GOP corruption news, the SEC investigation into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has moved from informal to formal, giving investigators subpoena power. Oh, goody!!! Here's CNN/Reuters with the details:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission has given subpoena power to investigators looking into the stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said sources familiar with the matter Wednesday.

Moving to protect the Frist inquiry from any future criticism for not being thorough, the SEC changed its status to formal from informal and gave investigators subpoena power to force individuals to talk or to produce documents or e-mails.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

Federal authorities are looking into Frist's recent sale of shares in HCA Inc. (Research) -- a hospital company co-founded by the Tennessee Republican's father and brother -- completed days before its stock price fell on a disappointing profit outlook issued July 13.

The company said last week it had received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, seeking documents believed to be related to the Frist matter. HCA also said the SEC had sought similar information.

Frist -- viewed widely as a potential 2008 presidential candidate -- said Monday he had no inside information about the coming profit forecast when he began taking steps in April that led to the HCA stock sale being completed July 8.

He said he would cooperate with investigators, and forecast that an examination of the facts would show he acted properly.

The SEC has conducted many probes of this sort and will likely be looking for "phone records, trading records, bank records and other records that might have authorized the trading at issue," said Mark Braswell, a partner at the law firm of Venable LLP and a former SEC enforcement attorney.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox -- who took over the investor protection agency last month and was formerly a Republican congressman from California -- Monday recused himself from the investigation of Frist, a former colleague in Congress.

Securities lawyer Stanley Brand, of the firm of Brand and Frulla, said SEC investigators would likely not be deterred by Frist's high political profile in pursuing the case.

"They've run a thousand insider trading investigations for people ranging from Martha Stewart to captains of industry on Wall Street," said Brand, also a former SEC staff attorney.

"They'll do their thing," Brand said. "They have a reputation for tenacity and not fearing anyone ... I can't imagine there will be an issue with Frist."

So let's list the GOP criminal investigations/indictments, shall we?

First the House Majority Leader has been indicted on criminal conspiracy charges and forced to step down.

Next, the Senate Majority Leader is under investigation for alleged insider trading.

Deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and Vice Preznit Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby are waiting to hear whether they will be indicted on obstruction, perjury and/or conspiracy charges in the CIA leak case. Other former or current senior White House and Bush administration officials could also be indicted in the case.

GOP uber-lobbyist and chief bag man Jack Abramoff has been indicted along with his casino partner in a wire fraud scheme. Abramoff, along with GOP strategists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, also is being investigated for bilking Indian tribes out of 80 million dollars in another casino scheme. And Abramoff may face indictment in the gangland style murder of the former owner of his casino boating business, Gus Boulis. Abramoff's business partner and co-indictee on wire fraud charges, Adam Kidan, paid three men (one a Gambino Family associate) over a hundred thousand dollars right before Boulis was murdered in Florida.

Finally, the head of procurement for Bush's Office of Management and Budget was arrested in connection with another Abramoff corruption case involving the infamous Scotland Golf Trip, which also involved Mr. Delay and Rep. Bob Ney (R-Oh).

And these guys beat John Kerry and the other wishy-washy Dems on "values" in 2004?

Gee, even Howard Fucking Fineman ought to be able to see that the culture of corruption surrounding the GOP leadership and the White House is going to cause some GOP angst come 2006. It may not bring on a 1994 watershed moment where Republicans are swept from power, but I bet Dems can now take back the House and close the gap with the GOP in the Senate.

And the preznit is now officially the earliest lame duck ever and his agenda is dead. The GOP will no longer have the muscle to wrangle anything through Congress. Not social security, not tax reform, not the nuclear option to end judicial filibusters.

Too bad this couldn't have happened before they rammed through that fucking bankruptcy bill that takes effect in a couple of weeks. But at least maybe now Dems will have the courage to limit the damage some of the crazies in the GOp want to do to the nation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

GOP Corruption Update: Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay Edition

Lots of stuff happening on the GOP crime blotter. First, there are possible indictments in the Tom Delay corruption probe. From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments — possibly against House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay — as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case.

Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code.

By expanding the charges to include conspiracy, prosecutors made it possible for the Travis County grand jury to bring charges against DeLay. Otherwise, the grand jury would have lacked jurisdiction under state laws.

The Associated Press spoke to several lawyers familiar with the case, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that prosecutors have interviewed him. He has insisted he committed no crimes and says Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is pursuing the case for political reasons.

The disclosure came as congressional officials said top House Republicans were quietly considering how to respond if an indictment were issued.

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker
Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.

Asked what he had heard of any late developments, DeLay said Tuesday, "Not a word."

He also said he earlier "had an interview" with prosecutors, adding, "everybody knows that."

The 11-term congressman has served as No. 2 in the House GOP leadership for three years, credited with maintaining iron discipline within the party and keeping Republicans in control of the chamber. He has retained the loyalty of most party members despite running into ethical problems last year. In a rare rebuke of a House leader, the ethics committee admonished DeLay three times for pressuring a fellow congressman, involving the
Federal Aviation Administration in a political dispute and discussing energy legislation with lobbyists at a golf outing.

The grand jury's finale coincides with a wide swath of political trouble for the GOP. Ethical questions have been raised about stock sales by the Republican leader of the Senate, Bill Frist, R-Tenn. And
President Bush, an uneasy ally of DeLay, faces the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.

The Texas grand jury has charged that corporate donations given to Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee — formed by DeLay — were used to support state candidates in violation of state law. Texas law prohibits corporate money to be used to advocate the election or defeat of candidates; it is allowed only for administrative expenses.

Once DeLay helped Republicans win control of the state Legislature in 2002, the majority leader engineered a Republican redistricting plan that gave the state's U.S. House delegation a 21-11 majority in the current Congress. The effort helped Republicans increase their House margin by five seats this year.

Three of DeLay's political associates, the PAC itself, several corporate donors and a Texas business organization have been indicted so far — but not DeLay himself.

On Sept. 13, the grand jury re-indicted two of the associates, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro. The new charges included the criminal conspiracy counts.

The legal sources said that if the case had remained solely under the state election code, DeLay could only be indicted in his home county, Fort Bend.

The grand jury has charged that Texans for a Republican Majority and the Texas Association of Business worked together to circumvent the election code and funnel "massive amounts of secret corporate wealth" into campaigns, said Earle, the Travis County prosecutor.

Earlier today, three men were arrested in a murder case connected to GOP uber-lobbyist and Tom Delay's "dear friend," Jack Abramoff. The Washington Post has the story:

Fort Lauderdale police have arrested three men on murder and conspiracy charges in the 2001 gangland-style killing of a South Florida businessman who sold a casino cruise line to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, authorities said today.

Police picked up Anthony Moscatiello, 67, Anthony Ferrari, 48, and James Fiorillo, 28, last night and this morning in connection with the ambush slaying of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who was killed in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001.

Boulis had sold SunCruz Casinos to Abramoff and a partner, Adam Kidan, in 2000 at a time when Abramoff was one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists. Abramoff and Kidan were indicted last month on charges of wire fraud in connection with the purchase of the company. Moscatiello, known to police as a bookkeeper to New York's Gambino crime family, was brought in as consultant by Kidan when he and Abramoff took control of SunCruz. Ferrari is a business associate of Moscatiello.

Abramoff is at the center of a federal investigation into lobbying for Indian tribes and influence-peddling in Washington. Abramoff used contacts with Republican Reps. Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Robert W. Ney (Ohio) and members of their staffs as he worked to land the SunCruz deal, interviews and court records show.

Ney twice placed comments in the Congressional Record at key points while Abramoff and Kidan were wrangling with Boulis over the purchase and control of the company. Ney first sharply criticized Boulis and later praised the new ownership under Kidan. Ney later said he was duped into making the comments by an Abramoff aide.

Also during the negotiations, Abramoff brought a lender he was trying to impress to hobnob with DeLay in Abramoff's FedEx Field skybox at a Redskins-Cowboys game. DeLay has said he did not remember meeting the lender.

Fort Lauderdale homicide detectives say they have been interested in interviewing Abramoff for years, but he has repeatedly begged off, citing scheduling difficulties. Abramoff's lawyer, Neal Sonnett, said after the fraud indictment that his client knows nothing about the murder but would be willing to meet with police. Kidan, who was interviewed by police in 2001, also has denied any knowledge of the murder.

Police have long said they knew who killed Boulis but needed more evidence to bring a case. Late last week, police persuaded the Broward County State Attorney's Office that they had enough evidence to get a grand jury indictment. The indictment of the three men was handed up Thursday and remains under seal.

Moscatiello was arrested at 8 p.m. yesterday in his Howard Beach home in Queens, N.Y. Ferrari was arrested at 11:15 p.m. in Miami. Both were being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. Fiorillo, who was arrested this morning in Palm Coast, Fla., was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy.

Michael D. Becker, an attorney in Miami who has represented the men in other matters, said he has not had a chance to speak to any of them yet. "The arrest certainly came out of the blue," he said today.

Five years ago, Abramoff, Kidan and former Reagan administration official Ben Waldman of Springfield, purchased SunCruz from Boulis, 51, the millionaire founder of the popular Miami Subs sandwich shop chain. Abramoff and Kidan have been friends since their days together as College Republicans in Washington. Kidan, of New York City, owned the Dial-a-Mattress chain in the District until the franchise went into bankruptcy in the 1990s.

On Aug. 11, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy relating to their $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Prosecutors alleged that Abramoff and Kidan faked a wire transfer of $23 million -- the down payment they had agreed to put into the deal for the fleet of Florida-based day-cruise casino boats.

Boulis remained a minority partner in SunCruz after the deal, but the relationship soured quickly.

In October 2000, in the midst of the infighting with Boulis, Kidan turned to a friend of 15 years, Moscatiello, who began visiting Kidan's condominium and golfing with Kidan and Waldman. Moscatiello in 1983 was indicted on federal heroin-trafficking charges along with Gene Gotti, brother of John Gotti, then the head of the Gambino crime family. Gene Gotti and several others were convicted and sentenced to prison, but charges against Moscatiello were later dropped.

Kidan met Moscatiello in 1990 when he was running New York City's Best Bagels in the Hamptons and Moscatiello was running a catering hall. Moscatiello provided Kidan advice on running the business. Kidan said in a deposition he was unaware of Moscatiello's 1983 indictment or his affiliations with the Gambino family.

In December 2000, the trouble with Boulis boiled over in a fistfight between Kidan and Boulis. Kidan described the fight to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, telling the newspaper that Boulis said, "I'm not going to sue you, I'm going to kill you." Kidan said that SunCruz thereafter barred Boulis from its casino ships. "We fired his friends, we fired his family and he wasn't happy with it," Kidan said. "This guy is violent -- he's sleazy."

That month SunCruz made the first of $145,000 in payments to Moscatiello and his daughter. Three checks for $10,000 each were made to his daughter, Jennifer Moscatiello. A fourth check for $115,000 was made to Gran-Sons, a company the Moscatiellos ran. The payments were for catering, consulting and "site inspections," Kidan said in a civil court deposition in 2001.

There is no evidence that any food or drink were provided or that any consulting documents were prepared, according to court documents. The checks to Jennifer Moscatiello were made at Anthony Moscatiello's instruction, although his daughter provided no services for the money, Kidan said in his deposition.

Ferarri is a principal in Moon Over Miami Beach Inc., which received $95,000 from SunCruz for surveillance services in early 2001.

Abramoff and Kidan were traveling on business abroad at the time of Boulis's murder.

It's starting to look like the wheels are coming off the GOP corruption express.

Between the SEC investigation into insider trading allegations of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the possible indictment of Tom Delay on conspiracy charges in Texas, the indictment of Jack Abramoff on wire fraud charges in the Sun Cruz casino case, the arrest of three men tied to Abramoff and his partner Adam Kidan in the murder of the former owner of Sun Cruz, Gus Boulis, and of course the soon to end CIA leak grand jury investigation that may lead to indictments of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, you have to think the "GOP Corruption" meme is going to seriously hurt the Republican Party come 2006.

Somebody should ask Tweety Bird Matthews and Timmeh Russert if they still think the GOP is the party of morals and virtue.

Stand Down, Randi: Weingarten's Legacy As UFT Preznit

I posted this over at Edwize, the UFT blog. I want to repost it on my blog just in case the wankers at Edwize decide to delete my comments.

The original blog post, written by Peter Goodman, is entitled "A Mayoral Legacy" and wonders how Bloomberg will be remembered in the future. I wonder in the comments section how Randi Weingarten will be remembered by future UFT members (if the UFT is still around):

Let’s forget the mayor’s legacy and talk about Randi Weingarten’s legacy as UFT preznit.

What kind of legacy does a union leader who concedes 20 years worth of contract provisions for a mere 11.4% leave behind her after she’s gone?

What kind of legacy does a union leader who gets eaten alive in every contract negotiation she has ever engaged in leave behind her after she’s gone?

What kind of legacy does a union leader who gets to concede another 20 years of contract provisions in the next negotations come 2006 leave behind her after she’s gone?

Randi Weingarten’s true legacy will be to leave the smoldering ruins of her once powerful teachers union behind her. She will exit her presidency and start her run for mayor after turning the clock back for teachers to 1950. Randi will have concded time, days, Circular 6, seniority and grievance rights, and a sixth class to the city in one contract! And in the next one, right around the corner in 2006, Randi will finish the job by conceding merit pay, more time, more days, and tenure.

Congratulations, Randi. What took 40 years to build, you destroyed in just a couple of years.

Stand down, Randi, before it’s too late.

Do what’s right for your membership and resign. Let somebody who’s competent and effective head the United Federation of Teachers at this crucial moment when the union is in a fight for its life.

Stand down, Randi. Stand down. And take your patronage hacks with you wherever you go.

Before it’s too late and the union is completely destroyed.

Randi Weingarten Ready to Sell UFT Down The River

ICEUFT-Blog reports that the United Federation of Teachers and the city are all but ready to make a deal on the teachers contract.

First, let's remember that the UFT and the city had reached an impasse and had agreed to take the contract negotiations to the Public Employee Relations Board for a non-binding "fact-finding report." The PERB returned these recommendations:

10 more minutes of work a day to be added to the 20 minutes from the last contract to create a 30 minute class for "small-group instruction"
3 extra days of work (2 in August and 1 lost holiday during the year)
10 extra class coverages for secondary school teachers
loss of seniority rights
loss of Circular 6 rights (meaning a return to pottyroom, lunchroom and hallway duty)
loss of right to grieve a letter in file
Retro: 0% first year; 2% second year; 3.5% first six months of the third year; 5.5% second six months of the third year.

Many New York City public school teachers were outraged by these recommendations and expected the UFT to immediately declare them unacceptable. Instead UFT preznit Randi Weingarten rammed a resolution through the UFT Delegates Assembly declaring that the PERB recommendations could be used "as a vehicle to conclude negotiations" on a settlement.

More anger followed from many New York City teachers who were outraged that the UFT would agree to use the PERB recommendations as a basis for negotiation. Still, many teachers were hopeful that the union would not actually agree to the odious PERB report.

Nonetheless, ICEUFT-Blog declares Randi is all but ready to deal with the mayor and that the PERB recommendations will become the new teachers contract with one minor subsitution. Here are the details:

Tonight’s Executive Board meeting sent a clear message. We are not only to accept a contract based on the fact-finding report we are taking the report as our contract. With one modification it appears that a contract has all but been signed.

At the Executive Board meeting Weingarten reported on her one hour bargaining session today letting out that the City is ready to drop the fact-finder’s demand for 10 free coverages in the secondary schools for our allowing them to implement the Lead Teacher Postitions provisions slated in the fact-finder’s report to be used in the future.

So the one concession from the PERB recommendations by the mayor was on the 10 free coverages, but in return he demanded merit pay for Lead Teacher Positions.

The New York Times "reports" today (and take this with a grain of salt) that the city and the union are ready to make a deal but are still wrangling out the details of the 10 extra minutes and a few other contentious issues:

As New York City and the teachers' union returned to the negotiating table yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg weighed in with unusually pointed comments about the contract talks, saying that he wanted a deal nailed down within two weeks or that the sides should accept a compromise recently proposed by arbitrators.

"We're willing to talk, but this has gone on, I think, long enough," he said.

But even as the mayor expressed his greatest optimism yet that a deal was within reach, officials involved in the talks said that a dispute had deepened over how to use 10 minutes per day of additional instruction proposed by the arbitrators.

The fight over how to structure a longer school day is not trivial. In their most recent contract, which expired on May 31, 2003, the teachers agreed to work 20 extra minutes per day. But the Bloomberg administration has had trouble determining how to use the time, and it has changed the school schedule four times in the last four years.

The disagreement also indicated how hard it would be for the two sides to cut a deal, even if they focused on the arbitration report - which was ambiguous not only over how to use the 10 minutes but in several other areas. In one positive sign, however, the negotiating teams agreed to meet again today.

The arbitrators have called for an 11 percent raise over 37 months for the city's teachers, with the increases tied to a number of substantial concessions and productivity increases, including lengthening the school day, adding three teacher training days and eliminating some highly prized seniority rights in staffing decisions.

In many ways, the basic elements of the contract talks were overshadowed yesterday by Mr. Bloomberg's public comments, which he made during his daily news conference.

"The arbitrators have come with suggestions and we would live with those suggestions if we can't negotiate a better deal," the mayor said. "I want to commit to make sure that all of our teachers get the compensation they need so they can focus on doing their job."

It was the first time since the arbitrators issued their report on Sept. 12 that Mr. Bloomberg fully endorsed its findings. Previously, City Hall officials had said that they agreed with parts of the report and disagreed with others. But the mayor said yesterday he was prepared to accept the report as is.

One change he still hopes to achieve, however, involves the expansion of a lead teacher program, in which veteran educators are paid $10,000 a year extra to be mentors to less-experienced colleagues. A pilot project, in District 9 in the Bronx, has been well received. But the arbitrators said the program could not be expanded without additional state money for the city schools.

"We want to be able to pay master teachers more now with savings that we can achieve and not wait," Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg's spokesman, Edward Skyler, would not comment on the dispute over the 10 minutes. "We don't negotiate through the media, but we look forward to the bargaining session tomorrow," he said.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the union, the United Federation of Teachers, said she was not necessarily encouraged by the mayor's remarks. "I don't know where it is going to go," she said after yesterday's bargaining session. "I have seen them optimistic before publicly and then doing absolutely nothing privately."

The mayor said he hoped for a deal within two weeks. "Over the weekend a number of teachers asked me, 'How long is it going to take?' " he said. "And I said, 'You know I think we could have a contract in a couple of weeks.' There's no reason why not."

Now it surely sounds from the mayor's statements and the ICEUFT's post that Randi is ready to sell the UFT down the river even if her public pronouncements are more demure.

What would it take for Randi to reject this abomination masking as a contract deal? She's decided to give 20 years of contract provisions back in one fucking contract for a measly 11.4%. ICEUFT notes that with all the concessions, added work, extra time, and a sixth class, the contract actually amounts to 20% pay cut. NYC educator writes that this contract will make New York City public school teachers the most overworked and underpaid in the metropolitan area.

And yet Randi is ready to deal.


Why is she so adamant to turn the clock back to 1950 for New York City public school teachers and throw away so many hard won rights for so little money?

Why is she so adamant that a deal must get done using these PERB recommendations?

Why can't she do what's in the best interests of her membership?

Reject the PERB recommendations! Tear 'em up and tell the mayor they are unacceptable! Then start an ad campaign comparing the treatment of NYC school teachers with the treatment of teachers in surrounding districts. Call the public's attention to the shitty physical environments kids learn in and teachers work in. Call the public's attention to the huge class sizes, the antiquated books and outdated learning materials, the absurd DOE guidelines for bulletin boards and reading rugs. Call the public's attention to the rise in test scores, say it was teachers who helped kids achieve this and yet the mayor wants to create a mass exodus to the suburbs by creating even more adverse working conditions for teachers.

It will take a couple of years, but if the UFT went on an intelligent, coordinated advertising and publicity campaign to show New Yorkers what the conditions in NYC schools really are like and how magnificently most teachers actually perform under such difficult conditions, we could actually win over more public support in our battles with the mayor and his union-busting lapdog.

And then maybe we could negotiate a fair contract that would help attract and retain good teachers for the NYC public school system instead of accepting a 20% pay cut and a return to 1950.

Bush Administration May Have Put The Fix In On Abramoff Case

From The New York Times (via Armando at the Daily Kos):

Demotion of a Prosecutor Is Investigated

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - The Justice Department's inspector general and the F.B.I. are looking into the demotion of a veteran federal prosecutor whose reassignment nearly three years ago shut down a criminal investigation of the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, current and former department officials report.

They said investigators had questioned whether the demotion of the prosecutor, Frederick A. Black, in November 2002 was related to his alert to Justice Department officials days earlier that he was investigating Mr. Abramoff. The lobbyist is a major Republican Party fund-raiser and a close friend of several Congressional leaders.

Colleagues said the demotion of Mr. Black, the acting United States attorney in Guam, and a subsequent order barring him from pursuing public corruption cases brought an end to his inquiry into Mr. Abramoff's lobbying work for some Guam judges.

Colleagues of Mr. Black, who had run the federal prosecutor's office in Guam for 12 years, spoke on condition of anonymity because of Justice Department rules that bar employees from talking to reporters. They said F.B.I. agents questioned several people in Guam and Washington this summer about whether Mr. Abramoff or his friends in the Bush administration had pushed for Mr. Black's removal. Mr. Abramoff's internal e-mail messages show that he boasted to clients about what he described as his close ties to John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, and others at the department.

Mr. Black's colleagues said that similar questions had been raised by investigators for the Justice Department's inspector general's office, which serves as the department's internal watchdog.

Spokesmen for the department in Washington have said there was nothing unusual about the timing of Mr. Black's reassignment in 2002. They said it was appropriate for the Bush administration to want to replace him with a permanent, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.

Mr. Abramoff, once one of the capital's best-paid lobbyists, is now the subject of a broad corruption investigation by federal prosecutors in Washington focusing on accusations that he defrauded Indian tribes and their gambling operations out of millions of dollars in lobbying fees.

A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff said he had "no recollection of being investigated in Guam in 2002" but would have cooperated if he had been aware of any inquiry at the time. Mr. Abramoff had a lucrative lobbying practice on Guam and the neighboring Northern Mariana Islands, another American territory; his lobbying clients paid for luxurious trips to the islands for several members of Congress.

Justice Department officials said they knew of no evidence to suggest that Mr. Ashcroft was involved in the decision to reassign Mr. Black. A spokesman for Mr. Ashcroft said the former attorney general and his aides at the Justice Department had done nothing to assist Mr. Abramoff and his clients and had had no significant contact with him.

Reached in Guam, Mr. Black, who continues to work as an assistant United States attorney, declined to answer questions about his 2002 reassignment.

The Los Angeles Times and news organizations in Guam have reported on questions about the circumstances of Mr. Black's demotion. The recent inquiries by the F.B.I. and by the Justice Department's inspector general had not been previously reported; nor had Mr. Black's contacts in November 2002 with the department's public integrity section about his investigation of Mr. Abramoff.

In a statement on Monday, the department said it was natural for the Bush administration to replace Mr. Black, whose assignment to run the United States attorney's office was never meant to be permanent, with a White House selection.

The department said the vetting process for Mr. Black's replacement, Leonardo Rapadas, the current United States attorney, was "well under way in November 2002," when the nomination was announced.

Colleagues said they recalled that Mr. Black was distressed when he was notified by the department in November 2002 that he was being replaced.

The announcement came only days after Mr. Black had notified the department's public integrity division in Washington, by telephone and e-mail communication, that he had opened a criminal investigation into Mr. Abramoff's lobbying activities for the Guam judges, the colleague said. The judges had sought Mr. Abramoff's help in blocking a bill in Congress to restructure the island's courts.

The colleagues said that Mr. Black was also surprised when his newly arrived bosses in Guam blocked him from involvement in public corruption cases in 2003. Justice Department officials said Mr. Black was asked instead to focus on terrorism investigations, which had taken on new emphasis after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Whatever the motivation in replacing Fred, his demotion meant that the investigation of Abramoff died," said a former colleague in Guam.

The Justice Department's public integrity section is responsible for cases involving government corruption. It is now overseeing the larger investigation of Mr. Abramoff in Washington.

Representative George Miller, a California Democrat who has long focused on issues involving American territories in the Pacific, said the disclosures about Mr. Black's demotion raised questions about a possible conflict of interest at the Justice Department in its investigation of Mr. Abramoff.

"What this starts to suggest is that Abramoff's ability to corrupt the system was far more pervasive, certainly than we knew at the time," Mr. Miller said.

How far up into the Bush administration do Jack Abramoff's tentacles reach?

We learned recently that Abramoff bragged to Tyco Corpation's general counsel (and now Bush's nominee for deputy attorney general) Timothy Flanigan that he had juice with Karl Rove and could help Tyco avoid paying taxes.

Now we get a story that suggests Abramoff may have had Bush administration attorney general John Ashcroft fire the federal prosecutor who opened a criminal investigation into Abramoff's lobbying activities for some Guam judges.

Let's list the names of GOP stars touched by Jack Abramoff's greatness and/or implicated in Abramoff bag money operations: House Majority Leader Tom Delay, GOP strategist Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Congressman Bob Ney (R-Oh), Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mt), Senator David Vitter (R-La), deputy attorney general nominee Timothy Flanigan, Karl Rove, and now John Ashcroft.

No wonder the federal prosecutor who started to the investigation into Abramoff's Guam activities got fired. He's not on the payroll and there are an awful lot of asses on the line to allow somebody not taking the money to conduct an investigation.

Monday, September 26, 2005

GOP Plans P.R. Campaign To Win Over Conservatives Angry About Spending - But Will Not Change Budget Policy

Guns and butter and tax cuts and hurricane relief are all in the offing for the rest of the Bush administration. Here's the Washington Post on how GOP leaders plan on selling their budget-busting policies to angry conservatives:

GOP Leaders Try to Soothe Conservatives
Drive Planned to Defuse Ire Over Spending

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2005; A04

Squeezed between a conservative clamor for spending cuts and the rising cost of hurricane relief, Republican congressional leaders will respond this week with a public relations offensive to win over angry conservatives -- but no substantive changes in budget policy.

Republican lawmakers and leadership aides conceded that the wholesale budget cuts envisioned by House conservatives are not being contemplated; the Senate is moving toward approving a temporary expansion of Medicaid for hurricane survivors, estimated to cost $9 billion. Nor are GOP leaders considering tax increases.

And Hurricane Rita's blow to a politically sensitive region of Texas could add more pressure to spend.

"Many communities, faith-based entities and the state of Texas have drained assets to save lives and help with the enormous multi-state national emergency, and they will need reimbursement to avoid massive financial failures," warned Rep. Louie Gohmert, a freshman Republican whose hard-hit East Texas district was drawn with the help of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) to take it from Democratic control.

Since Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29, Congress has approved spending bills and tax cuts worth nearly $71 billion. An additional $5 billion in housing, education and small-business assistance cleared the Senate, even before the Medicaid bill was considered. A united Louisiana congressional delegation is seeking $250 billion more.

Republican leaders say the overall cost could be $100 billion to $200 billion. Although mindful of criticism, the leaders contend that such one-time expenditures -- albeit huge -- should not harm deficit-reduction efforts.

Prodded by conservatives, President Bush and GOP leaders have said they are willing to offset those costs with spending cuts. But realistically, the political will does not exist to vote through the cuts that have been proposed, said House leadership aides and sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Nor have Republican leaders given serious thought to reversing course on tax cuts, lawmakers said yesterday.

"I don't see any change in fiscal policy," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), a former vice chairman of the Budget Committee.

The leadership has, however, felt the political sting of the recent deficit spending, which began with huge new transportation and energy bills this summer and cascaded into debt-financed hurricane relief this month. Republican leaders plan appearances this week on the syndicated radio talk shows of conservatives Sean Hannity, Tony Snow, Mike Gallagher and Lars Larson, as well as local radio and television shows, leadership aides said. DeLay set the tone in a Washington Times opinion piece yesterday.

"It is clear that the recent political discussion focusing on the government's spending priorities and overall economic platform in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita has introduced a valuable forum to promote the triumph of our ideas and solutions for government over the crumbling and outdated policies of the Democrat-controlled Congresses of past decades," he wrote.

In private meetings last week, GOP leaders sharply criticized rank-and-file Republicans for taking issue with the surge in spending, pleading instead for unity. But neither the public relations offensive nor the private upbraiding has quieted conservatives.

"This leadership group is so out of touch, it's unbelievable," said one House lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid inflaming leaders further.

GOP leadership officials say the conservatives are the ones out of touch. The hurricanes may have raised anxieties about the federal deficit, but they have pricked the conscience of a nation confronted by its own undercurrent of poverty.

Of the $509 billion in cuts proposed by the House Republican Study Committee, nearly half would come from health care for the poor. Yet Katrina knocked out eight charity hospitals in Louisiana that were helping to keep people off the Medicaid rolls, one House GOP leadership aide said.

Other targets would rekindle political battles that have already been fought and lost, such as eliminating federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

"While I like their idea of offsetting things, I wonder how productive it is," said Rep. Michael N. Castle (Del.), a Republican moderate.

Further complicating such cuts is the unabated spending on defense. A House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday completed a $440 billion military spending bill for 2006 that includes $50 billion for the war in Iraq.

If anything, the pressure could be for more spending. Congress has appropriated $62.3 billion for hurricane relief operations, by far the largest sum for a natural disaster. As of yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had allocated about $18.3 billion, said House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield -- $2.5 billion in the past four days, as funds were sent to prepare for Hurricane Rita.

But $44 billion remains in FEMA's disaster fund, which can be tapped for relief from either hurricane. That should be enough to push back the next hurricane relief bill until late October, and it could keep total hurricane costs to about $100 billion -- about half of early estimates, G. William Hoagland, a senior Senate budget aide, said yesterday.

But politics could intervene, lawmakers warned. Two of the House districts hardest hit by Rita are represented by freshmen Gohmert and Ted Poe, both of whom owe their seats in part to DeLay's redistricting. Leaders have encouraged the spending of federal largess in freshman districts to solidify House gains, said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an outspoken fiscal conservative.

"We hear the rhetoric, that nobody wants earmarks, but the truth is, the leadership likes them," he said. "They like to get you hooked. They make freshmen believe they are the ticket to reelection."

Nothing like a little P.R. to get you out of a tough jam.

But actual fiscal responsibility?


GOP Corruption Update: Abramoff Headed Slush Fund For Corrupt Political Machine

Josh Marshall at dissects the Jack Abramoff/Timothy Flanigan/Tyco Corporation scandal and breaks it down to its essence: Abramoff was a key player in a corrupt political machine who managed the slush fund. Here's his post (in full):

Let's return to the matter of Timothy E. Flanigan, currently awaiting confirmation as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and Jack Abramoff.

To review the highlights of our story, Timothy Flanigan was appointed Deputy White House Counsel at the beginning of the Bush administration. He later left that job to become General Counsel of Tyco Corporation, which had relocated to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes to the US Treasury. At Tyco, Flanigan hired Abramoff to fend off legislation which would have forced Tyco to pay its taxes. And, in the course of that hiring and work, Abramoff first boasted of his access to DeLay, Rove and others and then later claimed that he had spoken to Rove and enlisted his assistance on Tyco's behalf.

When we discussed this Friday, I noted that any suggestion that Abramoff had just fooled Flanigan into believing that he had more access than he had was highly implausible since Flanigan, as Al Gonzales' deputy at the White House, would have gotten a good sense of who Abramoff was and the level of juice he had with Rove and other Republican power-brokers.

Now, after I made this point on the site, a conservative acquaintance of mine emailed and asked a sensible question. If Flanigan was so plugged in at the White House -- enough to know how tight Abramoff was with the president's key advisors -- why exactly did he need to hire Jack Abramoff?

Didn't he already have enough access to handle the issue on his own?

Good question. But there's a pretty straightforward answer once you get a clear view of what sort of operation Abramoff was running.

So this a good opportunity to restate the point.

On paper, Jack Abramoff was a lobbyist. And he made a great deal of money for himself. But if you think of Jack Abramoff as just a crooked lobbyist most of the facts coming out about what he did don't make a great deal of sense. He was a key player in a very big political machine and he was managing a slush fund.

Look at the pattern.

Notice how all Abramoff's clients seemed to get 'bilked' out of large sums of money that ended up going to other conservative foundations, consulting firms, Ralph Reed, lobby shops, Grover Norquist, astroturf organizers, politicians, etc.? All of them part of Washington's Republican infrastructure?

In the case of Abramoff's work for Flanigan and Tyco, Abramoff ended up sending the greater part of their $2 million lobbying fee to an astroturf outfit called Grassroots Interactive -- an outfit allegedly controlled by Abramoff and run by a guy who now works as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Maryland.

The money ended up diverted to other purposes beside the honorable task of whipping up populist enthusiasm on behalf of corporations that relocate to PO boxes in Bermuda to avoid paying taxes. Tyco lawyer George Terwilliger claims the firm "was a victim of a rip-off."

So is that it? Another rip-off? Another corporation which hires a lawyer out of the White House only to get taken in by Jack Abramoff's wiles? Please. How many times can one operator pull off the same stunt? How many times do big chunks of these pay days get passed on to other operators and organizations without the operators and organizations getting wise to the game?

These odd diversions aren't the exception but the rule.

The Republican machine built by DeLay, Norquist, Abramoff, et al. and pulled into high gear after 2001, is a pay-for-play political machine. This is just another part of the operation, like the diktat for trade associations to hire only Republicans. Big political machines need their soldiers taken care of -- jobs on K Street which also
discipline the trade associations under Hill leadership. Just so, they need big sums of money to move around off the books. How does Rove keep the millions moving to Norquist? To Reed? To all the other operatives whose names you don't know about?

Indian tribes bursting with millions who need very focused sorts of legislative intervention -- that's one good source of money. Corrupt Pacific Island governments who need similar help -- another good source.

If Tyco wanted help, they had to pay in. That's what the $2 million was. Of course it got passed on to some other GOP outfit with Abramoff connections. That was the point!

Indeed. A pay-for-play political machine headed by Karl Rove and the money was doled out by Jack Abramoff.

Let's see if they get Rove on this eventually. The more people who get caught up in the crime net (like chief procurement officer for the Office of Management and Budget, David Safavian, who was arrested on lying and obstruction charges in connection with Jack Abramoff's infamous Scotland Golf junket), the more likely somebody's going to turn on Rove. And the fact that Rove has been made vulnerable by his involvement in the CIA leak grand jury case makes it even more likely that the Boy Genius is going get his own GOP version of Sammy "the Bull" Gravano to turn state's evidence on him.

Wouldn't you be more likely to turn on Karl Rove if you knew Patrick Fitzgerald already was going to kneecap him on obstruction, perjury or conspiracy charges?

NY Times On Teachers Contract Impasse

The NY Times almost gets the UFT contract negotiations infighting story right. Yet they still manage a major fuck-up in the story that will mislead readers unfamiliar with the details. Imagine that! Here's the article in full, emphasis mine:

At a contentious meeting on Tuesday, New York City teachers and their union president, Randi Weingarten, gave Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg a deadline of early October to offer them a fair new contract. If he fails to do so, they threatened, they may strike, endorse his Democratic rival, Fernando Ferrer, or maybe both.

A walkout is considered unlikely. It is illegal for teachers to strike, and they would face jail, the loss of two days' pay for each day out of work and the likelihood of public sentiment turning against them. But behind the threatening exchange is a complex, bitter and increasingly unpredictable labor dispute.

There is wide and deepening anger among many of the city's 83,000 teachers whose most recent contract expired on May 31, 2003, leaving them without raises as the cost of living has jumped.

This summer, Mr. Bloomberg predicted a generous deal by the start of school. Instead, teachers are fuming over a blitz of campaign ads in which the mayor takes credit for improved test scores that they regard as a result of their hard work.

The union, the United Federation of Teachers, and the Bloomberg administration are to resume formal negotiations today. On the table is a compromise proposed by a panel of arbitrators. It calls for 11 percent raises over 37 months tied to lengthening the school day by 10 minutes, adding three teacher training days, eliminating some highly prized seniority rights, and other concessions.

Although the panel sided with Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein on some issues, especially on seniority rights, the Bloomberg administration has moved slowly to hammer out a deal based on the arbitrators' recommendations, perhaps to buy the union's neutrality in the mayoral race as long as possible or perhaps because the pact would cost about $200 million more than City Hall expected.

In an interview, Ms. Weingarten said teachers were so furious that the first teachers' strike since 1975 was a possibility even though state law prohibits it. "The teachers always made the kids the first priority, and the mayor is running on that record and turns his back on the teachers," she said. "You have people who are really angry, who feel really betrayed."

"Nobody wants to go to jail," she added, "but I understand the consequences of being a union leader."

In recent days, the acrimony has worsened. When the former president of the teachers' union, Sandra Feldman, died last Monday, City Hall did not issue a statement expressing condolence. The union took that silence as an insult.

Opponents of Ms. Weingarten within the union suggest that the talk of a strike is intended not to pressure Mr. Bloomberg but to scare teachers into accepting a deal that includes smaller gains and larger concessions than they wanted. "There are two angles that the union plays," said Norm Scott, a critic of the union leadership. "P.R. with the members and P.R. with the public."

Mr. Bloomberg's aides said that he was unmoved by talk of a strike. "We don't believe teachers or union leaders would break the law," his spokesman, Edward Skyler, said. "The mayor wants to reach another agreement which gives teachers a well-deserved raise and provides real reforms so we can continue the historic progress of our schools."

The mayor's aides indicated that Mr. Bloomberg was far more annoyed by the union's threat to endorse Mr. Ferrer. "You introduce politics in the conversation, you lose him," one City Hall official said.

Privately, however, some advisers to Mr. Bloomberg have expressed concern about how a teachers' strike would affect the campaign.

Many experts on the school system believe the union is in a bind. "Randi's in a very difficult position," said Diane Ravitch, a writer and historian of the schools. "She's got a very angry membership, and she really wants a contract, and Bloomberg really has no incentive to do anything."

Some concessions that the arbitrators proposed are particularly thorny. For instance, they urged that teachers in middle school and high school be required to cover for absent colleagues for 12 class periods a year, up from 2 periods, but asked no similar concession of teachers in elementary schools.

In interviews, several teachers said that the only gain they could see in the proposed deal was money and that the raises were paltry given the added work, including two training days before Labor Day, shortening summer vacation.

If the administration tries to reduce the raises, teachers and union officials said, the deal will stand little chance. Starting city teachers now earn $39,000; the maximum base pay is more than $81,000 - generally 10 to 15 percent lower than in surrounding suburbs.

And depending on how Ms. Weingarten and the Bloomberg administration structure central components of the deal - like the proposed 10 extra minutes - she may not be able to sell it. Teachers could refuse to ratify the contract, as they did in 1995, stunning the union and City Hall.

"The fact is we have extreme commuters: we have people coming from Pennsylvania, we have people coming from Orange and Rockland," said Mark Nichik, a veteran teacher. "This extra time is no joke because you can't afford to live in the city."

"I don't know if she could sell it," said Mr. Nichik, who lives in Manhattan. "Ten minutes doesn't seem like much. But if you are going upstate it gets dark 10 or 15 minutes earlier."

I have one major problem with the Times article. When they talk of lengthening the school day by10 minutes, they make it seem like the 10 minutes is just added to the day, not added to the 20 minutes from the last contract to create a sixth class of "small group instruction".

There is a huge difference between adding 10 minutes to create a six hour and 50 minutes day with five classes taught or adding the 10 minutes to create a six hour and 50 minute day where six classes are taught.

Can't the NY Times get any story right?

Seriously, whenever I read an article about something I am familiar with, whether it be the teachers contract impasse or a building fire around the corner from me, I always catch inaccuracies.

Makes me wonder what inaccuracies I am missing in the articles that I am not familiar with.

More on the Times story later.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gas And Credit Card Companies Reap Profits From Hurricanes

And the greedy shall inherit the earth. First the gas companies, courtesy of the Washington Post:

Gas Profit Guzzlers
Refiners Captured The Biggest Part Of the Price Increase

By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 25, 2005; F01

When the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline peaked at $3.07 recently, it was partly because the nation's refineries were getting an estimated 99 cents on each gallon sold. That was more than three times the amount they earned a year ago when regular unleaded was selling for $1.87.

The companies that pump oil from the ground swept in an additional 47 cents on each gallon, a 46 percent jump over the same period.

If motorists are the big losers in the spectacular run-up in gas prices, the companies that produce the oil and turn it into gasoline are the clear winners. By contrast, the truckers who transport gasoline, the companies that operate pipelines and the gas station owners have profited far less.

The spikes caused by Hurricane Katrina -- which heavily damaged oil production and refining in the Gulf region -- accentuated gains the refiners and producers already were enjoying over the past year. Exxon Mobil Corp., the Irving, Tex., behemoththat produces and refines oil, reported in July that its second-quarter profit was up 32 percent, to $7.64 billion. Analysts expect Exxon's profit to soar again this quarter.

The rapid run-up in prices at the pump when Katrina hit -- and their slow decline -- has infuriated drivers, many of whom complain that oil companies used the storm as a pretext for boosting prices and profits. Politicians echoed that sentiment and are calling for investigations of the oil industry.

But interviews with analysts, consumer advocates and participants in the oil markets indicate that typical market forces were at work in the price run-up. Commodities markets that determine prices for gasoline moved dramatically higher after Katrina struck the Gulf region and damaged refineries and oil production. (The effect of Hurricane Rita on refiners' profits remains to be seen.)

Rising pump prices and company profits have caused lawmakers on Capitol Hill to seek legislative changes. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) has introduced a measure that would tax some oil company profits that are not devoted to exploration and development of new production.

"They obviously are experiencing windfall or excess profits," Dorgan said of the big oil companies. "They are . . . profiting in an extraordinary way at the expense of the American consumer."

And now to Senator Joseph Biden's (D-MBNA Corp.) favorite constituency, the credit card companies, again courtesy of the Washington Post:

Card Companies Are Filling Up At the Station

By Margaret Webb Pressler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 25, 2005; F01

As the price of gasoline rides the storm tides of two hurricanes, one group is crying all the way to the bank.

Major credit card companies are reaping huge profits from rising gas prices because the fee that banks charge gas stations to process a credit card transaction is based on a percentage of the purchase price. As gas prices go up, the processing fee goes up.

Since last year, the fees that gas stations paid to credit card companies have risen 64 percent, right along with the price of gasoline.

"It's unexpected revenue, because people are just doing what they were always doing," said David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, a credit card industry newsletter. "It's not like a whole new market opened up. There's no behavioral change. It's just more money."

And lots of it. On a typical day, Americans buy 382 million gallons of gasoline, according to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration. About 70 percent of that is paid for by credit card, said several trade associations representing gas stations. The credit card processing fees paid by gas stations, meanwhile, average about 2.5 percent, these trade groups agree.

So a year ago, when gas prices averaged $1.87, banks involved in credit card processing made about $12.5 million a day on fees. Now, with prices averaging $2.75 nationally, the credit card companies are raking in $18.4 million a day.

That is $183 million more a month, or nearly $2.2 billion dollars on an annual basis in extra money paid to the nation's banking giants just because of rising gasoline prices.

"The credit card processors and banks are reaping enormous profits right now," said Paul Fiore, director of government affairs for the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station & Automotive Repair Association. "That's right out of the dealer's profit."

Fiore said credit card fees have become the top issue among gas station owners because they have not been able to raise their profit margins to cover the increased fees they must pay to the banks. Typically, a retailer's own bank gets 25 percent of the processing fee, while three-quarters goes to the bank that issued the credit card, said Robertson of the Nilson Report.

The fees are especially burdensome for gas stations, because their profit structure is generally fixed: Stations tack on anywhere from 7 to 11 cents a gallon to get their profit. That margin stays the same, or may even shrink a little, as prices rise, yet the station has to pay more each month to cover rising credit card transaction fees.

Marty Dustin, who manages the Burnt Mills Citgo station in Silver Spring that he and his father own, said rising credit card fees are rapidly eating up the family's entire profit from the business.

"We are not going to be able to make it on that 7, 8, 9 cents [per gallon] because there's more coming out of the back side," he said. "We're all going to have to try and grow our margins a little bit to make up the difference."

But so far, Dustin and others say, the price competition among gas stations is so intense that few stations have been able to raise their margin to make up the difference, or even part of it.

Adding to the difficulty for gasoline retailers is the fact that consumers are using credit cards more often for those costlier gasoline purchases. The National Association of Convenience stores says that since Hurricane Katrina, the percentage of gasoline purchases on plastic has gone up 10 points , to 80 percent.

Each oil company's own branded credit card charges its station owners lower fees, but those cards account for a small -- and decreasing -- percentage of sales at retail gas stations, said Daniel F. Gilligan, president of the Petroleum Marketers Association. Debit cards, too, have slightly lower fees than traditional credit cards but also represent a small portion, about 16 percent, of total card transactions, according to the convenience store association.

It is major credit cards offering frequent-flier miles and rebates that get swiped the most, by far, these groups say.

But there is growing pressure on the industry to rein in its fees.

The lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the credit card companies for merchant fees has seen a wave of interest in his case because of the gas-purchase profits.

"As gas prices have doubled, so, too, have the earnings for the banks that own the credit card associations," Mitch Goldstone said. "What I proposed to the CEOs of both Visa and MasterCard is to very simply suspend the interchange fees at all service stations."

He got no response, but he has chronicled his battle on his Web site,

The issue of rising credit card profits also has begun to come up in congressional hearings related to gas prices. In one exchange earlier this month with a gas station owner, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) remarked that the percentage fee system -- giving the bank more money just because a consumer bought more gas -- "doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me."

Wall Street analysts say that for each individual financial institution, the growing profit from gasoline purchases is not huge compared with the total profit for the companies. Three of the biggest credit card issuers, Citigroup Inc., MBNA Corp. and Capital One Financial Corp., all declined to comment on the increased profits they are getting from gasoline transactions. But banking industry experts say the trend is in keeping with the increasing profits that banks are making in general on consumer fees of all kinds.

In the meantime, said F. Peter Horrigan, president of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors' Association, some service stations are fighting back. An increasing number are bringing back discounted prices for cash purchases or even rejecting credit card purchases altogether.

"It is the number one issue in our industry right now," Horrigan said.

Nothing like profiting from disaster and tragedy, eh?

Preznit Bush has proposed more "tax relief" for the gasoline and oil companies in the face of all these destructive hurricanes, even though the companies are reaping more profits these days than ever.

In the meanwhile, middle class and working class consumers, who really could use some relief from the high price of energy and the exorbitant interest and fees charged by the credit card companies, keep getting squeezed for more and more money.

And the credit card companies are squeezing the gas station retailers too, though I have to say I don't exactly feel sorry for them.

Not when many of these bastards charge $3 to $4 dollars a gallon for gas.

Nonetheless, how much profit will the banking industry need to reap from consumers and retailers before they say, "Enough!"

Do they want it all?

Do they need it all?

Uncle Alan Greenspan just raised the Fed's interest rates to 3.75% this past week. My student loan bank and my credit card companies will waste no time in raising their rates accordingly.

Mortgage banks and lenders will no doubt do the same.

My CITIBANK savings account is still getting 0.55%. My girlfriend's Chase account is getting 0.70%

How come the banking industry gets to gouge consumers by charging Mafioso rates and fees while they hand out chintzy interest on savings rates in return?

Could it be because the banking industry, like the energy industry, owns three quarters of the policitians from the Democratic Party and every politician in the Republican party?

To Quote Fareed Zakaria, This Story Would Be Funny If It Weren't So Depressing

From The Guardian:

Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

by Mark Townsend Houston
Sunday September 25, 2005
The Observer

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'

Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.

The mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from a commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned until US navy scientists had examined them.

Sheridan is convinced the scientists were keen to ensure the dolphins were not the navy's, understood to be kept in training ponds in a sound in Louisiana, close to Lake Pontchartrain, whose waters devastated New Orleans.

The navy launched the classified Cetacean Intelligence Mission in San Diego in 1989, where dolphins, fitted with harnesses and small electrodes planted under their skin, were taught to patrol and protect Trident submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea.

Criticism from animal rights groups ensured the use of dolphins became more secretive. But the project gained impetus after the Yemen terror attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Dolphins have also been used to detect mines near an Iraqi port.

The good news is, these killer dolphins will allow the cable news networks to move away from shart attack stories next summer and actually cover national security stories.

Sort of.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

As Usual, NY Times Editorial Writers Get It Wrong On Education

Usually the fuckers at the NY Times are writing editorials comparing jailed Times "reporter" Judith Miller to Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Today they take on the PERB recommendations and the impasse between the United Federation of Teachers and the Mayor of Money in the teachers contract negotiations.

This is a must-read for all of you teachers out there who think every editorial writer and education "journalist" in the business today should have to teach three years in a SURR school under Chancellor Klein's 8 page contract before they're allowed to write a fucking word about the job teachers do or the contract provisions they should work under:

Since the State Legislature gave him direct control of the city's school system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has created clear lines of authority and cut back a sprawling, ineffectual bureaucracy. But further progress toward a first-rate public school system will require a respectful relationship between the city and the union that represents its 80,000 teachers. Unfortunately, that relationship is probably worse than it has been in decades.

After going two and a half years without a contract, teachers are understandably demoralized and angry. The conflict is hurting New York's attempt to attract good teachers and radicalizing the United Federation of Teachers, which has historically been a cooperative partner in New York's most successful education experiments.

A nonbinding report just out from a contract arbitration panel provides a reasonable road map for an agreement. Wisely, the arbitrators recommend doing away with seniority rules that allow experienced teachers to bump new teachers out of their jobs - even over the objection of the principals. That makes no sense, particularly now that principals are being held responsible for how their schools and their teachers perform. Another good recommendation, based on a proposal made by the union earlier this year, calls for lengthening the school day slightly so the system can provide a small-group instruction period. That would be a boon for students who are struggling to meet rising standards.

The arbitrators favor a salary increase of a little more than 11 percent over three years. By one estimate, this would cost an additional half-billion dollars a year. The city could not afford it without state aid, but that might come as part of the resolution of the court ruling on fiscal equity, which requires improved schooling for poor city students. The pay issue is certainly connected to quality education. Higher-paying suburban districts have lured away thousands of New York's most experienced teachers. The city finally stanched these losses with the last contract, in 2002, when teachers received solid raises that were partly subsidized by the state.

The school reform effort depends on the teachers, but the city is at a perilous juncture in its relationship with their union. Mr. Bloomberg has told us time and again that he wants us to judge him on his education record. What he does to solve this nasty dispute should weigh heavily in that judgment.

Two points: the Times claims to worry about the NYC system losing good teachers to higher-paying suburbs, yet they support creating a sixth class of "small-group instruction" for high school teachers as partial compensation for an 11.4% salary hike.

Do the fuckers at the NY Times really think adding a sixth class for a measly 11.4% (about three grand after taxes for a fifth year teacher) will help retain good teachers in a system already bereft of sufficient funding, morale, and physical conditions and/or environments conducive to both learning and teaching (e.g., buildings that aren't 110 degrees in September and June, 100 degrees the rest of the year when the boilers are turned on)?

Do the fuckers at the NY Times really think by making New York City public high school teachers the most overworked, underpaid teachers in the metropolitan area (as NYC Educator put it), Mayor Bloomberg will be benefiting the kids and bettering the public school system?

Do the fuckers at the NY Times know anything about teaching or how to retain good teachers.

It's simple really. You offer respect, a safe working envirnoment, and competitive wages commensurate to education level and the salaries of teachers in surrounding areas and you stop bashing teachers in the press every chance you get.

That's it. In fact, if you offered a few of those conditions above, I'd bet quite a few members of the UFT would be open to some concessions or reforms in the contract negotiations.

But instead the Mayor of Money and his union-busting chancellor offer an 8 page contract that completely eradicates 30 years of labor negotiations overnight, a shitty wage that doesn't come close to covering either the increased time, work or cost of living adjustments since the last contract, and a litany of "Fuck You's!" in the press every time one of them opens their mouths.

No wonder the relationship between the city and the teachers is "worse than it has been in decades."

Secondly, for the NY Times to claim that the UFT "has historically been a cooperative partner in New York's most successful education experiments" is disingenuous at best, scandalous at worst. From the comfort of their air conditioned, carpeted offices, the fuckers at the Times consistently bash the United Federation of Teachers as a labor dinosaur out of touch with contemporary progressive education reforms and pillory individual UFT members as selfish, do- nothing, ne'er-do-wells who need to be treated like the children they teach in order to get improvements in the system.

For the fuckers at the Times to suck up to UFT members and admonish the mayor for wrecking the relationship with NYC teachers on the one hand while consistently hammering the union as a harmful entity that keeps children from being properly educated on the other is laugh out loud funny. It is also about as accurate and reality-based as the "Free Judy" opinion pieces they've been publishing ever since the Queen of All Iraq got sent to the pokey for refusing to cooperate with a federal treason investigation involving Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.


GOP Corruption Update: Part Two

The SEC and the Justice Department are looking into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's stock dealings. Here are the details from The Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is facing questions from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission about his sale of stock in his family's hospital company one month before its price fell sharply.

The Tennessee lawmaker, who is the Senate's top Republican and a likely candidate for president in 2008, ordered his portfolio managers in June to sell his family's shares in HCA Inc., the nation's largest hospital chain, which was founded by Frist's father and brother.

A month later, the stock's price dropped 9 percent in a single day because of a warning from the company about weakening earnings. Stockholders are not permitted to trade stock based on inside information; whether Frist possessed any appears to be at the heart of the probes.

A spokesman said Frist's office has been contacted by both the SEC and the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan about his divestiture of the stock. HCA disclosed separately that it was subpoenaed by the same U.S. attorney's office for documents that were related to Frist's sale. Frist and HCA said they are cooperating.

Historians said they cannot recall any other congressional leaders who have faced federal inquiries into stock sales. Frist has denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, a Frist spokeswoman said the senator had not discussed the stock sale in advance with any HCA executives. On Friday, in a statement from Frist's office, the issue was couched a little differently. It said the senator "had no information about the company or its performance that was not available to the public when he directed the trustees to sell the HCA stock. His only objective in selling the stock was to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest."

According to Frist's office, the senator decided to sell all his HCA stock -- held in blind trusts managed by two companies for him, his wife and his children -- on June 13. Under the rules of the trusteeships, Frist had no control over the timing of the sale, Frist spokeswoman Amy Call said.

When the company disclosed that its second-quarter earnings would fall short of Wall Street expectations a month later, the stock price slid steeply. By that time, Frist's shares had been divested. The managers of one of the trusts told the senator on July 1 that his holdings had all been sold; the other trust managers said the shares were gone on July 8.

Frist's financial disclosure statement earlier this year placed the value of his blind trusts at between $7 million and $25 million.

Separately, documents unearthed yesterday by the Associated Press showed that Frist was told about stock trades in his blind trust. In documents filed with the Senate, trustee M. Kirk Scobey Jr. told Frist in 2002 that HCA stock had been transferred to his trust. Scobey, reached by phone last night, declined to comment.

The AP said that the documents disclosed that HCA stock worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was placed into Frist's blind trusts several other times in 2002 as well. Frist maintained in a television interview in 2003 that he did not know how much HCA stock he owned, if any. Spokesmen for Frist did not return phone messages last night.

The Associated Press notes that both GOP congressional leaders are fighting ethics probes and some people in Washington are beginning to connect the current Republican Party with the Tammany Hall machine of old:

Heading into a midterm election year, Republicans find themselves with not one, but two congressional leaders — Bill Frist in the Senate and Tom DeLay in the House — fending off questions of ethical improprieties.

The news that federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into Frist's sale of stock in HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by his family, comes as a criminal investigation continues of Jack Abramoff, a high-powered Republican lobbyist, and his ties to DeLay of Texas.

Less than a week ago, a former White House official was arrested in the Abramoff investigation.

For Republicans, the timing couldn't be worse.

"The last thing you needed was a Martha Stewart problem," Marshall Wittman, a one-time conservative activist who now works for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said of Frist. "He doesn't even have a good clothing line or a popular television show."

Stewart, the homemaking doyenne, served five months in federal prison for lying to authorities about a stock deal and nearly six months more in home confinement.

The midterm elections occur in just over 13 months and Republicans face the historic reality that the party controlling the White House typically loses seats in non-presidential years.

Shadowing the GOP outlook is President Bush's diminishing approval ratings as the war in Iraq, rising oil prices and the need for billions in federal spending after devastating hurricanes threaten to overwhelm a second-term agenda.

"It may not cost the Republicans any seats directly, but it's something they don't need right now," said John J. Pitney, a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California who once worked as a research analyst for House Republicans. "They've got plenty of problems as it is."

Still, in the Republican-controlled Congress, Democrats have more Senate seats to defend — 17 to the GOP's 15 — and redistricting has made fewer House seats competitive.

Charlie Black, a Republican consultant with close ties to the White House, expects Frist to be cleared by next year and any whiff of scandal to be gone.

"I suspect the DeLay matter and this matter will be resolved long before November '06," Black said.

Frist cultivated a political outsider image when he ran for the Senate in 1994. "I don't want a career in Washington. I want change," said the Tennessee heart surgeon, who didn't register to vote until 1988 and didn't vote until he was 36.

The year 1994 marked the Republican revolution, when the GOP seized control of Congress after decades of Democratic rule in the House and years in the Senate. The GOP portrayed their rivals as beholden to special interests and corrupt after years of entrenchment.

More than a decade later, Republicans are trying to avoid the perception that they resemble the Democrats they replaced.

"The overall problem the Republican Party has is it is increasingly looking like Tammany Hall," Wittman said. "An odor of sleaziness is enveloping the Republicans and seeping into the administration."

Democrats seized on the latest development, with party chairman Howard Dean criticizing Frist and arguing that Republicans "have made their culture of corruption the norm."

The challenge for Frist is to clear his name in a federal investigation while trying to maintain his hold on the post of Senate majority leader.

Frist came to power in 2002 when Republicans forced out Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record), R-Miss., after he made racially tinged remarks in support of former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., a one-time segregationist.

If Republicans see Frist and the probes as a drag, he could suffer the same fate as Lott. Frist also is a lame-duck leader who has indicated he won't seek another term.

Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who has managed scandals, said Frist's political strategy would be to get information out, but that approach is hardly what a lawyer would advise his client.

An insider trading investigation also raises the possibility of civil action by shareholders and a discovery process that "disgorges all kinds of documents," Lehane said.

"Even information benign in another type of environment — what about this phone message from your brother" — has added significance, Lehane said.

Frist has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2008 — a prospect that looks less likely with the federal probe and his break with conservatives on embryonic stem-cell research.

"That romance was over before it started," Wittman said.

And let me note again the connections made in the Washington Post yesterday between GOP uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Preznit Bush's deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and Timothy Flanigan, Preznit Bush's current nominee for deputy attorney general and former general counsel for scandal-plagued Tyco. The Post reports that Abramoff, who is the focus of a federal investigation involving the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Interior Department, and the General Services Administration in various fraud cases, bragged to Flanigan that he could help Tyco on a tax matter because he had "good relationships with members of Congress," including House Majority Leader Tom Delay, and "had contact with Mr. Karl Rove" on the issue.

And let me note the CIA leak grand jury case, in which Karl Rove and Vice Preznit Cheney's chief of staff Scotter Libby are embroiled in possible obstruction, perjury and/or conspiracy charges.

And of course let me note that the head procurement officer for the Office of Management and Budget in the Bush administration was arrested on Monday for making false statements to investigators and obstructing justice in the Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay Scotland Golf Trip scandal. The Washington Post also reports that Safavian failed to disclose lobbying work he had done for two African regimes with ties to terrorism when he went before a Senate panel last year to be confirmed as head of the White House's procurement office. Josh Marshall at says that Safavian's lobbying ties to possible terrorists were shady enough that the Secret Service had reservations about giving Safavian a badge to work at the White House.

Safavian also worked with Jack Abramoff in the Mariana Islands mininum wage lobbying matter that has drawn the scrutiny of investigators and Pakistan on military sales matters. Safavian's wife, Jennifer, is the chief counsel for oversight and investigations at the House Committee of Government Reform, which oversees federal procurement policy matters, and is working on the Hurricane Katrina aftermath investigation.

There is some conjecture that Safavian's wife helped engineer Safavian's employment at the White House. if you remember, the White House was quite upset at allegations (since proven untrue) that Ambassador Joseph Wilson was hired for the Niger uranium trip by his CIA operative wife, Valerie.

In fact, they were so upset at those allegations that they leaked Valerie Plame's name to reporters in an attempt to discredit Wilson and his trip to Niger as nothing more than nepotism.

So far the same White House officials don't seem to be too upset about allegations that Safavian got his White House job at the behest of his wife, Jennifer. But I'm sure we'll hear more about this as the investigation and revelations in the case continue.

In the meanwhile, I need a scorecard to keep all of these Republican scandals straight.

I mean, I didn't even mention the Randy Cunningham case, the Bob Taft/Bob Ney Ohio Coingate case, the various Arnold Schwarzenneger sex and special interest scandals, or the Ernie Fletcher/Kentucky GOP patronagage scandal and I'm already starting to get the names and bag money amounts confused.

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