Thursday, January 31, 2008

John McCain is Dr. Strangelove

He may be pulling the numbers but he is still strange.


Mismanaging of Funding of the Ryan White Act, by Puerto Rican Government

“The tragedy of life saving medications not being delivered to people with HIV/ AIDS because of government mismanagement, as has been demonstrated in numerous governmental reports and news articles, is inexcusable. We cannot speak for activists in Puerto Rico, but we can demonstrate our support for their demands” said Rosa Colón from Unid@s Dandole Cara al SIDA: New York Chapter.

“Puerto Rican activists are demanding that the Commonwealth and San Juan governments distribute federal funds for AIDS through independent credible third party organizations. They are also seeking an infusion of emergency funds from the Puerto Rican and San Juan Governments to address the current life or death reality. Finally they are requesting Congressional oversight hearing and fact-finding as to what has gone so wrong in the way the Commonwealth and San Juan government are delivering health care services to people living with HIV / AIDS and what corrective action should be taken,” said Dennis deLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS.

The poor health conditions in Puerto Rico are causing people with AIDS who have lived in the island to move to the United States. “I was force to move to New York to receive AIDS medications and medical services. With so many medications that can prolong life, it really upsets me that my sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico have to live in a situation, which will lead to shorter lives. Why do they have to leave to live?” said Mr. Menendez, a patient from Puerto Rico. “If we don’t take care of the health care system in Puerto Rico we will then have to take care of our people here as demonstrated by the number of people that United Bronx Parents has flown in from Puerto Rico” said Lorraine Montenegro, Executive Director of United Bronx Parents Inc.

(Puerto Rico has a death due to AIDS of 16.4 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 4.9 per 100,000).
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ELECTION 2008 Arlo Guthrie endorses Ron Paul, Huckabee has Norris, McCain has Stallone
Posted: January 31, 20081:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2008

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been endorsed by martial arts champion and movie star Chuck Norris; rival John McCain has the support of "Rocky" star Sylvestor Stallone. Now Ron Paul has announced the endorsement of Arlo Guthrie.
"I love this guy," the legendary songwriter-singer whose creation, "Alice's Restaurant," has become a cult classic, wrote in an announcement issued by the Paul campaign.

"Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of the United States had he been there," Guthrie said. "I'm with him, because he seems to be the only candidate who actually believes it has as much relevance today as it did a couple of hundred years ago.
"I look forward to the day when we can work out the differences we have with the same revolutionary vision and enthusiasm that is our American legacy," he said.
The announcement, which carried the telephone number of the Paul campaign, offered to set up interviews with Guthrie, and when WND made that request, the campaign said it could try, but Guthrie has a "limited schedule."

Guthrie, the son of Woody Guthrie, grew up surrounded by some of the greats of American music, including Pete Seeger and Leadbelly, and witnessed the transition from ballad singers to singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Jim Croce and Joan Baez, according to a profile on his website.

"He grooved with the beat poets like Allen Ginsburg and Lord Buckley, and picked with players like Bill Monroe and Doc Watson," the description says. "He learned something from everyone and developed his own style, becoming a distinctive, expressive voice in a crowded community of singer-songwriters and political-social commentators."

His release of "Alice's Restaurant" in 1967 launched him as a successful artist, and he went on to star in the 1969 Hollywood version of a movie by the same name, directed by Arthur Penn.
The song, although at some 25 minutes too long for radio play, was a hit at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, and for the past four decades, he's toured North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia with his music.

He has his own music label, and he's appeared on the ABC series "Byrds of Paradise" as well as the network series "Renegade."
Guthrie also, in 1991, bought the old Trinity Church, where the events that inspired "Alice's Restaurant" took place, and the Guthrie Center is a not-for-profit interfaith church foundation providing local and international services.
On his website, one forum participant noted, "There's a lot about Ron Paul that sounds great for me, too … even though I'm not an atheist … I don't believe that religion should be involved with government or public places at all … it's a private thing and not to be pushed on to folks to don't choose it."

"There were some ideas of Paul's that were extraordinarily interest," the forum contributor said, " … especially his foreign policy … and keeping government small."
"Alice's Restaurant" dealt with life in the 1960s, Vietnam, the idea of war, rebellion and a host of other issues. One short segment of the lyrics/narrative include:
Came to talk about the draft. They got a building down New York City, it's called Whitehall Street, where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. I went down to get my physical examination one day, and I walked in, I sat down, got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. 'Cause I wanted to look like the all-American kid from New York City, man I wanted, I wanted to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from New York, and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I waked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said, 'Kid, see the phsychiatrist, room 604.'
And I went up there, I said, 'Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.' And I started jumpin up and down yelling, 'KILL, KILL,' and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, 'KILL, KILL.' And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, 'You're our boy.' Didn't feel too good about it. Proceeded on down the hall gettin more injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff that they was doin' to me at the thing there, and I was there for two hours, three hours, four hours, I was there for a long time going through all kinds of mean nasty ugly things and I was just having a tough time there, and they was inspecting, injecting every single part of me, and they was leaving no part untouched. Proceeded through, and when I finally came to the see the last man, I walked in, walked in sat down after a whole big thing there, and I walked up and said, 'What do you want?' He said, 'Kid, we only got one question. Have you ever been arrested?' And I proceeded to tell him the story of the Alice's Restaurant Massacre…

A WND call to the Paul campaign with a request for a comment on the endorsement didn't generate a response.
But in the race for the GOP nomination this year, Sylvester Stallone endorsed McCain, saying, "I like McCain a lot. A lot. As you know, things may change along the way, but there's something about matching the character with the script. And right now, the script that's being written and reality is pretty brutal and pretty hard-edged like a rough action film, and you need somebody who's been in that to deal with it."

In response, McCain said, "I'm going to Philadelphia and running up the steps."
Chuck Norris, a WND columnist, announced on the commentary page of the news site his endorsement of Huckabee.
In the Democratic race, Oprah Winfrey has been plugging for Barak Obama, while Barbra Streisand has offered support to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
"Hillary is a powerful voice for change as we find our country at an important crossroads," Streisand's statement said. "Under her leadership, our country will regain its respect within the global community. She will prioritize issues of global climate change, universal health care and rebuilding a strong economy. After eight long years, the public will once again have faith in their government."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008



Giuliani Prepares to Exit, Back McCain

Email this StoryJan 29, 10:40 PM (ET)By DEVLIN BARRETT

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Rudy Giuliani, who bet his presidential hopes on Florida only to come in third, prepared to quit the race Tuesday and endorse his friendliest rival, John McCain.
The former New York mayor stopped short of announcing he was stepping down, but delivered a valedictory speech that was more farewell than fight-on.

Giuliani finished a distant third to winner McCain and second-place finisher Mitt Romney. Republican officials said Giuliani would endorse McCain on Wednesday in California. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the public announcement.
"The responsibility of leadership doesn't end with a single campaign, it goes on and you continue to fight for it," Giuliani said, as supporters with tight smiles crowded behind him. "We ran a campaign that was uplifting."

Asked directly if he was dropping out of the race, Giuliani said only: "I'm going to California."
Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to debate in Simi Valley Wednesday night.
Tuesday's result was a remarkable collapse for Giuliani. Last year, he occupied the top of national polls and seemed destined to turn conventional wisdom on end by running as a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights, gay rights and gun control.
"Elections are about fighting for a cause larger than ourselves," he said at one point, echoing one of McCain's most popular refrains.

The results seriously decimated Giuliani's unconventional strategy, which relied heavily on Florida to launch him into the coast-to-coast Feb. 5 nominating contests.
He largely bypassed the early voting states, figuring that the early states would produce multiple winners and no front-runner.

But Florida proved to be less than hospitable. The state's top two Republicans - Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist - endorsed McCain. And Giuliani, who once led in state polls, saw his support swiftly erode.
After seven contests, Giuliani had just one delegate and four sixth-place finishes. His third-place showing in Florida was his best. He finished fourth in New Hampshire.
Giuliani's bid for the nomination was based on his leadership. The only question was how many voters would follow.

His stalwart performance as New York mayor in the tense days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks earned him national magazine covers, international accolades and widespread praise. Yet, Giuliani was always a Republican anomaly - a moderate-to-liberal New Yorker who backed abortion rights, gay rights and gun control in a party dominated by Southern conservatives.
And even though several of his rivals were divorced and remarried, none had the dissolution of their second marriage and trysts with current wife Judith Nathan attract as much attention.
In the early days of the presidential campaign, Giuliani's mayoral record and familiar name propelled him to the lead in the polls, but voters admitted they had lots to learn about him and his positions on the issues.


The following notice was sent to YFP from the Miami Herald. Looks like the bureaucrats are at it again. Let's hope they are equally diligent about reporting on the primary in their state.

Dear Rafael:
It has been brought to our attention that the website located at has content reproduced from The Miami Herald

Please remove these articles, columns and any other Miami Herald content present
on your site immediately. You are also urged to not publish future stories or
images from The Miami Herald or on your site.
The content in question includes the following items on your website: Dave Barry's Jan. 28, 2008 column and HIV cases in Puerto Rico (story and photo).
Please remove the materials cited above immediately, and any others that you may
know of in violation of The Miami Herald's copyright within the next 5 business

Please reply with confirmation of action taken within 5 business days or this matter will be forwarded to the McClatchy Company's legal department for further action. If you have comments or concerns about our copyright policy, please feel free to contact me. Our complete copyright policy is available on our website at As you can see, you are welcome to link to content on our website. You are not allowed to reproduce it on yours.

Shelley Acoca
Reader Exchange Editor
The Miami Herald

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


OK. Muslims Against Sharia. You have posted twice in the comments section of YFP posts that have nothing to do with your organization. is your 15 minutes of fame. YFP is posting your goals and publicizing your blog. In the future, please email YFP directly if you want your articles to be printed. We get the point!

to educate Muslims about dangers presented by Islamic religious texts and why Islam must be reformed
to educate non-Muslims about the differences between moderate Muslims and Islamists (a.k.a. Islamic Religious Fanatics, Radical Muslims, Muslim Fundamentalists, Islamic Extremists or Islamofascists)
to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims alike that Moderate Muslims are also targets of Islamic Terror


Defending His Amnesty Bill, Sen. McCain Lost His Temper And “Screamed, ‘F*ck You!’ At Texas Sen. John Cornyn” (R-TX).

“Presidential hopeful John McCain - who has been dogged for years by questions about his volcanic temper - erupted in an angry, profanity-laced tirade at a fellow Republican senator, sources told The Post yesterday.

In a heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul, McCain screamed, ‘F— you!’ at Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who had been raising concerns about the legislation. ‘This is chickens—stuff,’ McCain snapped at Cornyn, according to several people in the room off the Senate floor Thursday. ‘You’ve always been against this bill, and you’re just trying to derail it.’” (Charles Hurt, “Raising McCain,” New York Post, 5/19/07)

Rafael Martinez Alequin on Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani: 'In The Past I've Done The Impossible'
Actor Voight On Florida Polls: 'Wrong Since The Beginning'

Marcia Kramer ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS) ― Rudy Giuliani is fighting for his political life in Florida. Voters in the Sunshine State will either pump new life into his campaign or put it on life support.

Giuliani's best buddies from his glory days as mayor of New York City are with him in Florida, where polls open bright and early Tuesday morning. However, it's unclear whether they're here for a christening or a funeral.

Giuliani was 30 minutes late for his first campaign event on Monday. The microphone didn't work for actor Jon Voight.

"And I was in New York City … This is not going very well," Voight said.

The crowd was sparse and the polls are heading south. To make matters worse, sources told CBS 2 HD on Monday night that New York Republican leaders are looking for a way to unendorse Giuliani in favor of John McCain.

A new Quinnipiac University poll has McCain at 32 percent. Mitt Romney is at 31, Giuliani at 14 and Mike Huckabee at 13.

That's not the way any candidate wants to close a campaign for his political life.

"In the past I've done the impossible," Giuliani said.

But can he do it this time? Right now it looks like the impossible dream, although Giuliani supporters are trying to be upbeat – especially Voight.

CBS 2 HD: "All the polls show Rudy's not doing well today …"

Voight: "Look at this little gal talking about the polls. The polls are ... guys we all know the polls have been wrong from the beginning."

Giuliani is also trying to put a brave face on a gloomy situation

"We feel very optimistic about this. We think we're getting good crowds," Giuliani said. "We think we're doing well in early voting. We're going to campaign right down to last minute."

Other supporters aren't ready to jump off the bandwagon, but they have definitely moved up in line.

When asked if she is troubled by the fact that Giuliani is not doing well in the polls, former Bayside, N.Y. resident Jeanne Eader didn't mince words.

"Yes, that does trouble me," Eader said.

Dave Lane of Sanford, Fla., said this is not a popularity contest. Issues have to be the determining factor in picking the right candidate.

"You want to cast your vote for what you believe in rather than what you believe is going to win," Lane said.

Giuliani rolled the political dice here in Florida and the way it looks now, it would take a momentous development for him to succeed.

Monday, January 28, 2008


If you bought diamond jewelry between 1994 and 2006 you can be part of a $295 M class action lawsuit

De Beers is the largest supplier of rough diamonds in the world. Beginning in 2001, Plaintiffs in several states filed lawsuits against De Beers in state and federal courts alleging that De Beers unlawfully monopolized the supply of diamonds, conspired to fix, raise, and control diamond prices, and issued false and misleading advertising. De Beers denies it violated the law or did anything wrong.

The Settlement Agreement provides that $22.5 Million be distributed to the Direct Purchaser Class, and that $272.5 Million will be distributed to the Indirect Purchaser Class. De Beers also agrees to refrain from engaging in certain conduct that violates federal and state antitrust laws and submit to the jurisdiction of the Court to enforce the Settlement.Site to file for the suit online

Sunday, January 27, 2008


NYC Official Fined for Conflict of Interest

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former city official and political power broker has been fined $15,000 by a conflicts of interest panel for misusing city resources and staff for work related to his private law practice.
Stanley Schlein, the former chairman of the New York City Civil Service Commission, acknowledged that he had asked staffers to perform legal work related to his private clients, all while on city time and using a city-owned computer, telephone, and copy and fax machines.
In a settlement with the Conflicts of Interest Board signed last month and released Wednesday, Schlein admitted to the allegations and agreed to pay the $15,000 fine.

A veteran of Bronx Democratic politics, Schlein also acknowledged that he used his city phone for personal matters, totaling more than 2,000 calls from January 2004 to September 2006.
Schlein acknowledged that he had violated the city's conflict of interest law that prohibits a public servant from using city resources for non-city purposes and bans employees from using their city positions for financial gain or other personal advantage.

The Civil Service Commission acts as a quasi-judicial body for disciplinary actions and appeals from decisions made by the city's administrative services department.
Schlein was commissioner from 1990 to 2002, and then served as chairman until 2006.
More news from the Bronx...


Group Wants Botox Warning After Deaths
By REUTERS, Reuters
Posted: 2008-01-25

WASHINGTON (Jan. 24) - Botox and a similar injection should come with strong warnings following reports of 16 deaths and other serious problems after the botulinum toxin spread inside the body, a U.S. consumer group said on Thursday.Public Citizen asked U.S. authorities to require the strongest possible warning, highlighted in a "black box," on Allergan Inc's Botox and Solstice Neuroscience Inc's Myobloc.

Botox is famous for smoothing facial wrinkles but also has approved medical uses such as treating cervical dystonia, or rigid neck muscles. Myobloc is cleared only for the neck condition.Both injections are made with forms of the botulinum toxin, which can paralyze muscles.Public Citizen said it reviewed 180 reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration by manufacturers involving patients injected with Botox or Myobloc.

The reports detailed cases of muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing or aspiration pneumonia, a serious condition caused by breathing a foreign material into the lungs.Reports to the FDA do not prove a product caused a particular problem, but the agency uses them to look for patterns of potential complications.Officials at Allergan, Solstice and the FDA could not immediately be reached for comment.Sixteen of the cases reported were fatal, including four involving children under 18, Public Citizen said. Some patients were hospitalized.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said such problems can occur if botulinum toxin spreads from the injection site to the esophagus, causing partial paralysis. Instructions for Botox and Myobloc mention the issue but it is easy to miss, he said. Public Citizen asked the FDA to order a black-box warning to highlight the concern, plus a letter to doctors.

The agency also should require a consumer-friendly guide explaining the risks that would be handed out by doctors when the drug is injected, the group said."These significantly improved warnings to doctors and patients would increase the likelihood of earlier medical intervention when symptoms of adverse reactions to botulinum toxin first appear, and could prevent more serious complications, including death," Public Citizen said in a petition to the FDA.The group said European regulators have warned physicians to watch for signs of botulinum toxin complications, most recently in March 2007.


Yeshivah of Flatbush threatened to have funds cut off for not allowing gay couples to attend ten year reunion

Tensions are high among alumni at the Yeshivah of Flatbush after the administration barred alumni from bringing same-sex partners to a high school reunion in December.Before the 10-year reunion for the class of 1997, the high school division of the Modern Orthodox yeshivah – located at 1609 Avenue J – sent a letter to former students it suspected would bring same-sex partners back to the reunion.

Posted on the blog Jvoices, the letter read, in part:“As previously stated to you, we welcome your attendance and look forward to your participation. However, your partner cannot attend.”The stance did not sit well with many alumni of the prestigious private Yeshivah, who believe the policy to be an intolerant and selective interpretation of Jewish law. Opponents hope that the school realizes that it is risking its respected name because of the policy. If the policy persists, they hope, many alumni will threaten to withhold financial contributions.

“We’re hoping that it makes enough of a financial impact that it might make sense [for the Yeshivah to chance its policy.] Part of the name of the school is how it’s represented outside of the school,” Rothstein said.Rothstein said that one of the reasons for the school might have taken such a strong stance against same-sex couples is because its student body has a more conservative bent than it has in the past.

“Nowadays, the large majority of the student body is members of the Syrian-American Jewish community living in Brooklyn. When it comes to homosexuality, they’re very clear on not accepting it whatsoever. That’s certainly an influence,” he said. Another factor, many believe, is the recent controversy surrounding the school’s former principal, Rabbi Alan Stadtmauer, who resigned in 2005 after coming out as a gay man. Stadtmauer said he no longer considered himself Orthodox. He recently signed the petition.

“I personally think [the Stadtmauer incident] is why they took such a strong stand against homosexuality. They don’t want to be labeled as the gay Yeshivah,” Rothstein said. Rothstein said that in addition to being a selective interpretation of Jewish law, the school’s position on gay couples contradicts the primary tenets of Judaism.“We learned important values in our education,” he said.“If you embarrass someone, it’s as if you’ve shed their blood. And it’s important to welcome guests. These values go back to Abraham – his tent was open on all sides.”
Op-Ed Columnist

It’s Not Giuliani Time in Florida

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Maureen Dowd
I expected more of Rudy.

Not a better message. It figured that he would snowbird his strategy, taking his New York subtext of blacks-want-to-mug-you-and-I-can-protect-you down to Florida and switching it to Arabs-want-to-kill-you-and-I-can-save-you.

And I wasn’t surprised that he continued to run on fear and divisiveness, zeroing in on Florida the way he used to target Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Queens and parts of Manhattan where the elderly lived. Hizzoner always focused on those who supported him and ignored those who didn’t.

I simply expected that Rudy would rise to greater heights as he fell behind, that he would self-immolate in a dramatic way befitting a man who loves opera and the “Godfather” movies. I longed for the Manhattan diva to reprise Maria Callas doing one of her famous Donizetti mad scenes that he loved so much.

Watching him in colorful Miami in his funereal dark suit, I wondered, where’s the red meat? I missed his showman’s appreciation for pouncing on the news of the day and grabbing headlines with some outrageous, provocative aria. Surely, The New York Times’s McCain endorsement — harshly branding America’s Mayor “a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man” who spurred racial polarization and exploited 9/11 for his business and political purposes — gave Rudy the lyrics for an operatic rant against The Times that could have replaced his milquetoast stump speech and delighted conservative audiences.

And how could he pass up the chance to mock his old nemesis Hillary, the feminist icon who is totally dependent on her husband to do the heavy lifting?

It was Mitt Romney who scored the best Hillary line at the Boca debate. When Tim Russert asked him, “How would you run against Hillary and Bill Clinton in November,” Mitt replied: “I frankly can’t wait, because the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can’t imagine. I can’t imagine the American people can imagine.”

The audience laughed and Russert tried to pin down Mitt to see if he was implying any East Wing shenanigans. It does conjure up a disquieting image of Hillary in the Oval and Bill rambling around next door in the study right near that pantry. Romney has slyly used the word “intern” at least twice talking about Hillary, saying he had more business experience than she did and the White House was “not a place for a president to be an intern.” But slick Mitt slid away from Russert, replying, “I just think that we want to have a president, not a whole — a team of husband and wife thinking that they’re going to run the country.”

Previewing a Republican race in the fall, he went on: “She is Washington to the core. She’s been there too long. Bill Clinton’s been there too long. The last thing America needs is sending the Clintons back to Washington.” Then he stole an Obama line, to go along with the Obama change mantra he snitched and put on posters, adding, “Look, sending the same people back to Washington expecting a different result is not going to get America on track.”

Facing possible catastrophe last week, Rudy stolidly stuck with peddling a plan for a national catastrophe fund that would make property owners’ insurance more affordable to Floridians whose rates have been driven up by hurricanes. (Doesn’t the man who attacks Hillary for socialized medicine worry that this is socialized homeowners’ insurance?)

His deep investment in one state and a one-dimensional message do not seem to have paid dividends. He needs to quit talking about 9/11 and dial 911. His numbers have dropped by half in the year he has campaigned here. The more he has wooed, the less he has won. His campaign may have always been doomed, given that he was unacceptable to so many other Republicans. But the final act seems sad — sputtering, stalling and dying like a bad engine on an old car.

Could it be over before the fat lady sings? If early-bird voters don’t save him and he comes in third here, will he get out of the race so he doesn’t suffer the indignity of losing New York, a scene so melodramatically implausible that even Verdi wouldn’t try to pull it off?

One top Democrat, shocked that Rudy had run a race so minimalist that it would make a front-porch campaign look expansive, wondered if it was really some ploy to pump up his business. And perhaps his low-energy windup was meant to maintain dignity for Giuliani Partners.

At a Rudy rally in Boca on Thursday, there were snowbirds and transplanted New Yorkers. Some, naturally, loved Rudy and some, naturally, loathed him.

Ed Wenger, 65, a retired aerospace executive who used to live in Long Island, hailed the former mayor as “fantastic.” “He turned Times Square from a hooker’s paradise to Disneyland,” he said.

Nearby, Norman Korowitz, 66, a snowbird, retired guidance counselor and Billary fan from Suffolk County, called Rudy “an optical illusion.”

“He’s Bernie Kerik’s partner,” he said. “And family values? He makes Bill Clinton look like a young upstart.”

Friday, January 25, 2008


January 25, 2008 -- Spoiled diva Kimora Lee Simmons has been stripped of her latest fashion accessory - a parking permit proclaiming she's on "official business" for the city's Correction Department, officials said yesterday. The placard was a gift from a jail guard who moonlights as her chauffeur.

But he will likely face just a slap on the wrist, and Simmons won't have to model prison stripes. An eagle-eyed Post photographer last week snapped her Cadillac Escalade - and the placard - while it was parked outside Barneys on the Upper East Side. The model-turned-fashion queen was inside at the time, doing some shopping with her actor boyfriend, Djimon Hounsou. Simmons, the fashion-icon wannabe and former wife of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, claimed she didn't know how she got the pass.

"I don't know. I don't know," she babbled. "I'm not driving!" Authorities declined to name the offending officer/chauffeur and identified him only as a 10-year department veteran. The officer had properly acquired the pass when he worked in the department's emergency-services unit. But he should have turned it in two years ago, after he was promoted and transferred to a Rikers Island job, said Deputy Commissioner Stephen Morello.

"With emergency services, it was a position where he could be called on short notice to a facility in a neighborhood where parking was an issue," Morello said. "But at Rikers Island, that's no longer an issue." Morello said the department had approved the officer's extracurricular driving job. Simmons doesn't appear to be in legal jeopardy despite breaking the rules to score prime parking spots, authorities said.

"The placard seems, in this case, to be the responsibility of the officer, and DOC [Department of Correction] has already retrieved it from the officer," Morello said. The officer is likely to face, at worst, internal discipline, possibly a brief suspension or fine. A spokesman for the union representing correction officers said none of its members has asked for representation against administrative charges involving parking passes. The Bloomberg administration is in the midst of a crackdown on the illegal use of parking permits.

In Turnabout, Mayor Seeks Spending Cuts

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg urged New Yorkers not to panic despite gloomy revenue forecasts.

The proposed $58.5 billion spending plan is a sharp departure from those of recent years, when unexpected surpluses fed by booms in the real estate and financial markets allowed the mayor to unveil ambitious new programs.

The mayor said the overall spending increase was driven by expenses he said were difficult to control, including Medicaid costs, health care and pensions for employees and debt service. To compensate for those costs and falling revenues, he said, the administration was trimming other spending by roughly 4.3 percent.

His plan calls for scaling back subsidies for public libraries, cultural programs, meals for the elderly, tutoring at the City University of New York and summer jobs for youth. The mayor could face a battle as the City Council focuses on those programs, many of which are dear to its members.

“We haven’t seen the effect of the cuts on the agencies,” said Councilman David I. Weprin, chairman of the Finance Committee. “We may be proposing alternative cuts, and we may be arguing for or against certain cuts.”

Mr. Bloomberg included a popular $400 property tax rebate for homeowners in his budget, but he warned that if the economy continued to sink or if the city did not receive enough state and federal aid, the final budget for the fiscal year beginning in July could include higher property taxes and more severe service cuts.

“If we try harder we can all find these kinds of savings without cutting back essential services or even most of the very desirable things that we do,” Mr. Bloomberg told commissioners and reporters at City Hall. “If we can’t get cooperation, if we can’t get help that we’re counting on, if we can’t get the things that we have been promised in the past,” he continued, taking aim at Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who is proposing a reduction in aid to the city, “then I don’t think that is possible.”

Should further cuts become necessary, Mr. Bloomberg said, he would fight hardest to retain the property tax rebate, saying that owners of one-, two- and three-family homes have not really benefited from the extraordinary surges in property values and have had to struggle to meet higher tax burdens.

Along with the proposed budget, Mr. Bloomberg presented a four-year financial plan that anticipates deficits of about $4.2 billion in the 2010 fiscal year, $5.6 billion in 2011 and $5.3 billion in 2012. Mr. Bloomberg’s charts — which featured more bad news than good, he noted with a wry smile — showed that in June the city anticipated that Wall Street would generate $16.8 billion in profits in 2007, but now expects just $2.8 billion.

Nonetheless, Mr. Bloomberg appeared unusually relaxed through the nearly 90-minute presentation, and sought to reassure New Yorkers that while difficult times were ahead, they were not yet dire. He said he thought the economy would continue to decline but had no way to truly know, and urged residents to enjoy themselves.

“If you live prudently and put some money away and work hard, you’re probably going to be O.K.,” he said at one point. “Don’t sit there and hunker down and, you know, try to live in a tent.”

Despite Mr. Bloomberg’s assurances, the proposed budget could lead to noticeable service reductions, especially at the Department of Education, which is set for a $324 million cut in the next fiscal year and is undergoing a $180 million reduction in the current fiscal year. Mr. Bloomberg, who won control of the school system in 2002, has staked much of his legacy on its improvement and has generally increased spending or allowed the department to avoid reductions, even in tight times.

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said that most of the reductions would be passed down to individual schools, with an average of more than $100,000 coming out of each school’s budget, although the final figures could vary widely depending on size and demographics.

Principals will, he said, “have to tighten some programs,” like eliminating intensive tutoring on Saturdays or after-school activities.

“My theory is that they should have some discretion. Different schools may find that they have to cut back on a program or that they may have to make some adjustment with the staff.”

While the central administration will make some trims, like reducing costs when purchasing supplies, the brunt of the cuts would fall on the schools. The department will save $1 million by reducing the number of citywide standardized tests to 8, instead of 10 as originally planned, and cut $10 million by eliminating some teaching positions for English as a second language instruction. Mr. Klein defended the decisions, saying that the Education Department had cut $230 million from the central administration office in recent years.

The city also transferred some spending responsibilities, including paying for computer repairs, to individual schools.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, criticized Mr. Klein, saying he did not do enough to protect the education budget and had misplaced priorities.

“Instead of looking at all the test-driven materials or looking at the bus contract or looking at other kinds of things where there is fat in the system, the first thing they do is make the schools pay for it,” she said. “The chancellor should be the champion of the schools, not cut into the schools.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal, which seeks to reduce overtime costs at a number of agencies, would also cut funds for 1,000 police officer positions that were authorized in richer times, officials said. The move is not likely to have much practical effect on the size of the force since the headcount at the department, which has been facing a recruiting crisis because of low starting salaries, has remained well below the maximum allowed.

The mayor and his aides portrayed many of the trims as savings realized from greater efficiency or shifting realities, like closing shelters because of a decline in the population of single homeless adults. Pressed on the cuts to the sanitation budget, for example, aides said that garbage truck routes would be consolidated and could not guarantee that residents would see as many pickups.

The spending plan does call for new sources of revenue, including a plan to sell naming rights for facilities like pools and recreation centers in city parks.

Al Baker and Jennifer Medina contributed reporting.


Fox Host John Gibson Mocks Heath Ledger's Death
Huffington Post January 23, 2008 06:13 PM

Fox News' John Gibson found a way to outdo MSNBC's Courtney Hazlett for the most inappropriate comment on Heath Ledger's death. ThinkProgress reports that, on his radio show yesterday (which opened with funeral music), Gibson called Ledger a "weirdo" with a "serious drug problem." Making fun of the famous "I wish I knew how to quit you" line from "Brokeback Mountain," Gibson said of his death, "Well, he found out how to quit you."

This is not Gibson's first time making inappropriate comments in the wake of tragedy. In July 2005, just one day before the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London, Gibson said that "the International Olympic Committee missed a golden opportunity....If they had picked France instead of London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?" The next day, after the London bombings, Gibson repeated the remarks.
To hear the must-listen audio of John Gibson mocking Heath Ledger's death, visit ThinkProgress.
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Rudy: I'm Not Quitting If I Lose Florida

By Eric Kleefeld - January 24, 2008, 3:56PM
The vultures are circling around Rudy Giuliani's campaign, waiting for him to drop out after the Florida primary rather than suffer worse humiliation on Super Tuesday — but he says he's staying in even if he loses this Tuesday in the Sunshine State.

"I have no plans to end my campaign," Rudy told reporters today, according to the New York Times. "Of course, I anticipate winning in Florida because I don't go into a campaign anticipating losing. And I have no reason not to anticipate winning. We're very, very competitive."
For those of you keeping score, the latest polls have Rudy in third place in Florida, behind Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

(Click on the video above)

Kucinich abandons White House bid

Dennis Kucinich has decided to drop out of the presidential race after disappointing single-digit showings in early primaries and caucuses.
The Democratic congressman told his hometown newspaper the Cleveland Plain Dealer about his plans Thursday and said he plans a formal news conference Friday.

The former Cleveland mayor says he wants to remain in the House, where he has called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney and plans to introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush prior to Monday's state of the union address.
"I'm transitioning out of the presidential campaign," Kucinich said in a short video posted to the newspaper's Web site.

Kucinich said he has a lengthy announcement planned for his news conference, which is scheduled for noon Friday in Cleveland. This video is from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, broadcast January 24, 2008.

Battle Over Wiretapping Is Heating Up on the Hill

Go to Original
By Walter Alarkon
The Hill

Thursday 24 January 2008

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged President Bush on Wednesday to support a one-month extension of an interim foreign-intelligence surveillance law that expires on Feb. 1.

In a letter to Bush, Reid wrote that it is doubtful the Senate can pass its update of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the expiration date. The House passed a Democratic-written bill last fall that strengthened the oversight powers of the court that has traditionally held jurisdiction over foreign-intelligence surveillance on U.S. soil.

Democrats and the White House are at loggerheads over whether to include in the Senate bill immunity for the telecommunications companies that participated in the government's domestic warrantless wiretapping programs after Sept. 11, 2001. There are roughly 40 lawsuits pending against the carriers at present. There is also disagreement along partisan lines on whether to require Congress's reauthorization of the program.

The House bill does not contain any immunity provision, while the base bill awaiting Senate action does. But several Senate Democrats are planning to alter, if not strike, the immunity language through the amendment process. A temporary extension of the GOP-backed interim bill, passed last summer over the objections of many Democrats, would effectively buy them more time.

"The legislative process on this critical issue should neither be rushed, nor tainted by political gamesmanship," Reid wrote.

While Reid is hoping for more time, he will bring the FISA bill to the floor for a debate Thursday, his office said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday reiterated the administration's call for a permanent FISA extension along with immunity for telecommunications companies. Bush has said he would veto any bill that does not include immunity. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed and said he opposes a temporary extension of the program without first considering a permanent one.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Cheney said that failing to reauthorize FISA would have "predictable and serious consequences."

"Our ability to monitor al Qaeda terrorists will begin to degrade - and that, we simply cannot tolerate," he said.

Efforts to pass the Senate FISA bill stalled in December when Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) pledged to filibuster any measure that provided phone companies with immunity. Reid pulled the bill from the floor so the Senate could finish its other work.

Dodd on Wednesday again said that he would work to defeat any efforts that included such protections.

"I'm just not going to give them a free pass," Dodd said.

Before filibustering, he said he would support an amendment that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) plans to offer that would strengthen the FISA court and does not include immunity for the carriers. Leahy's amendment is based on the bill passed by the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. He would not say on Wednesday whether he would support a filibuster by Dodd.

The current bill up for consideration, approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee, includes immunity for phone companies as long as they received written requests from the administration for assistance. Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday he is confident that there are enough votes to thwart a filibuster and pass the current bill before the end of the week.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) plans to offer a compromise bill that would have the government replace the carriers as the defendant in the lawsuits. Rockefeller, however, said he thought the compromise would fail.

Tentative Deal Reached on Stimulus Plan

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Representative John A. Boehner, the Republican leader, announcing a tentative deal on an economic stimulus package.

  • Published: January 24, 2008
  • WASHINGTON — House leaders and the White House on Thursday announced a tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package of roughly $150 billion that would pay stipends of $300 to $1,200 per family, and more for families with children, plus provide tax incentives for businesses to encourage spending.

Readers' Comments

What do you think of the economic stimulus package that House leaders and the White House have tentatively agreed to?

The accord was announced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. at a Capitol news conference and hailed minutes afterward by President Bush as the fruit of “patience, determination and good will” in both parties.

The president and the speaker both described the accord as embracing the basic precepts of their respective parties. Mr. Bush called it “a powerful and effective way to help taxpayers and businesses” by letting people keep and spend more of their own money.

Ms. Pelosi said the package is aimed at the middle class “and to those who aspire to be in the middle class.” She described it as “timely, targeted and temporary — that was our standard.”

In addition to the tax rebates, or stipends, Ms. Pelosi said the package would offer some quick relief for those homeowners in danger of losing their houses.

Mr. Boehner called the package “simple, clean and neat.” Like Ms. Pelosi, he said none of the parties to the talks got everything they wanted. But in the end, he said, “This agreement is a big win for the American people.”

President Bush said the agreement was also a victory for the kind of bipartisanship that some politicians and analysts say is in short supply in Washington of late. And as he has many times, the president said the American economy is “structurally sound” despite rising energy prices and problems in the housing industry.

Democrats released a summary estimating that the rebates would go to 117 million families. About two-thirds of the total package would go toward the rebates, with the remaining one-third going toward business tax breaks, like write-offs for equipment purchases.

Both leaders pledged quick action in the House, and both pointedly urged similar alacrity by the Senate, whose members operate “with their very senatorial rules,” as Ms. Pelosi put it.

“Speed is of the essence,” Mr. Paulson said.

President Bush underscored that message, as he offered warm praise for the negotiators in both parties. He also took the opportunity to urge once again the extension of tax cuts that were approved by the Republican-controlled Congress early in the decade and are to expire within a few years.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said minutes after the announcement that he was pleased an agreement had been reached, and that he wanted a package ready for Mr. Bush by the time Congress recesses around President’s Day. But he said senators would “work to improve the House package” through the addition of unemployment benefits and other items.

Late in the negotiations that preceded Thursday’s breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi agreed not to include two proposals that had broad support among Congressional Democrats: an extension of unemployment benefits and a temporary increase in food stamps.

In exchange for those concessions, the Bush administration and House Republicans agreed that the stipend of at least $300 would be paid to all workers who earned at least $3,000 last year, even those who did not earn enough to pay taxes.

As it was presented on Thursday afternoon, the package calls for workers who paid income taxes to receive $300 to $600, and couples to receive up to $1,200 — plus $300 more for each child. The stipend, which some lawmakers were calling a “tax rebate,” would be subject to income limits so that the wealthiest taxpayers would not receive it. Payments would go to individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000. He said roughly two-thirds of the overall package would be aimed at individual taxpayers and one-third at businesses.

Senators Reid and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, have yet to give their approval to the accord. But, while there may be some wrinkles to iron out between the House and Senate, there was nothing to suggest any disagreement so severe as to be a potential deal breaker.

Republicans immediately cheered the deal as “tilted toward taxpayers” and avoiding “extraneous spending” on unemployment benefits, food stamps, or infrastructure projects, which some Democrats had said should be included in a stimulus package.

But it was unclear how the package, without extended unemployment benefits or increased food stamps, would be received by Democrats in the Senate, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who have said that those proposals offered the best prospects for quickly injecting added spending into the economy.

Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the Finance Committee, reiterated his interest in extending unemployment benefits at a hearing on Thursday morning, where he said his committee would mark up a fiscal stimulus bill next week.

“There are reports that a deal may be close on the House side,” Mr. Baucus said. “The Senate will want to speak, as well.”

That announcement of potential action by the Finance Committee could jar Democratic leaders who have been striving for a carefully coordinated effort on the economy. Earlier this week, Mr. Reid announced that the House would take the lead in developing the stimulus package and would conduct the immediate negotiations with the White House and Congressional Republicans.

Noting that tax rebates were one potentially cost-effective method to spur new spending, Mr. Baucus said: “Another example would be expanding unemployment insurance benefits. In recent recessions, Congress has extended the number of weeks that unemployed workers could receive benefits. We could do that again. We could provide a further extension for recipients in high unemployment states. And we could also temporarily increase the dollar amount of benefits to help unemployed workers to pay their bills.”

“Unfortunately, under current law, fewer than 4 in 10 unemployed workers receive unemployment insurance benefits,” Mr. Baucus continued. “To address this problem, we could extend eligibility. For example, we could extend benefits to part-time workers.”

Mr. Schumer, at the same hearing, also lamented Ms. Pelosi’s concession on unemployment benefits, but said he hoped that cooperation on a quick stimulus plan would continue. “While I may not agree with every element of the package — such as the decision to leave out extended unemployment benefits, which economists say would give us the greatest bang for the buck — there are some very positive developments around the tax rebate for families,” he said. “I encourage everyone to keep working in a bipartisan way.”

Ms. Pelosi met three times on Wednesday with Treasury Secretary Paulson and Mr. Boehner, who have served as chief architects of the plan in a rare show of bipartisanship.

On her way into a meeting Wednesday evening, Ms. Pelosi signaled that a deal might be close when she said there had been “tremendous” progress during the day.

Democratic leaders said that to speed the economic rescue package they would mostly bypass the usual committee process. Lawmakers said that they hoped the plan could be approved by mid-February and that it would be sufficient to soften an economic downturn and forestall a recession.

“One of the principal tenets of the administration and of ourselves is we have got to do this fast,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said Wednesday. “To go through the regular process and have hearings and have mark-ups and subcommittee mark-ups, obviously we would be to some degree twiddling our thumbs while the economy burns.”

The progress toward a stimulus plan came as the Congressional Budget Office revised its economic projections to give a gloomier assessment of the economy, including a widening budget deficit and the first decline in corporate tax revenue since 2003.

The grimmer outlook prompted Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee, to declare that a short-term stimulus package was insufficient.

“In addition to developing a bipartisan stimulus package,” Mr. Conrad said, “we also must work together to tackle the long-term fiscal challenges we face with the coming retirement of the baby boom generation. The American people rightly expect that we will come together to address these two significant challenges.”

House conservatives raised alarms about the emerging economic legislation, saying they feared it would focus too much on tax rebates and not enough on tax incentives to encourage businesses to create jobs.

They said any package should include provisions that would reduce the corporate tax rate, adjust capital gains for inflation and lower the capital gains rate for corporations.

“Giving temporary tax rebate checks to families, as important as that is, is not the same as economic growth,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. “If you’re going to have an economic stimulus package, it ought to contain some economic stimulus.”

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting.


New York firefighters out of St. Patrick's Day ParadeLocal
Scott M. Larson January 22, 2008 (see in print version)

Committee said there was too much drinking and other rule breaking.

When firefighters from New York marched in previous St. Patrick's Day Parades in Savannah, they carried a banner proclaiming "New York City Firefighters Love Savannah."
Will they still love the city now that they've been kicked out of the parade for throwing beads and drinking while marching?
"This gives the appearance that Savannah doesn't love them," said Jim Grismer, chairman of Savannah Friends of Firefighters.

He's sponsored the parade application for the New York firefighters since 2005.
But parade committee general chairman John Forbes said he spoke to Grismer repeatedly about problems with the firefighters.
"It's been a constant battle for the last three or fours years with the New York Fire Department having a problem following the rules," Forbes said. "Everyone wants them in the parade, for obvious reasons. These guys are heroes. I would want them in the parade. I don't know anyone who wouldn't want them in the parade. But it's gotten out of control."

Parade rules forbid drinking while marching or throwing items to the crowd.
Before 2005, individual firefighters had been coming to the Savannah parade for years and sometimes just jumping into the line.
After seeing this, Grismer, a retired firefighter with two sons in the New York Fire Department, applied for a specific spot for firefighters in 2005. He has been hosting firefighters for the parade since 2003 and throws an annual reception for them.

He told those who were in the group at the beginning of the parade all the rules, he said.
"The concern I had is the parade steps off and people join in and I don't want that," he said. "The guys who step off the sidewalk could have a six-pack under their arm."
A separate application for the department's pipe and drum corps was approved. But Forbes said any firefighters who come to Savannah won't be able to fall behind the corps.
"It seems like overreaction" Grismer said. "They never gave us a chance to correct perceived problems."

But Forbes said he spoked to Grismer before the 2007 parade.
"You assured us that we would not encounter that problem during last year's parade," Forbes wrote in a letter to Grismer dated Jan. 4. "We, again, encountered that problem."
Forbes said some firefighters even cursed parade officials who tried to intervene last year.
Committee members have flexed their muscle before to mold the parade according to their vision.

In 2002, the committee asked the Alee Temple Shriners to cut the number of units from 21 to 15 to make the parade shorter.
The Shriners bailed but came back in 2005 with fewer vehicles.
Because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday, representatives from the New York Fire Department were unavailable for comment. But Grismer said firefighters will come down for the parade.
And, next year, he can re-apply.


Judge: NYC Can't Use Secret Arguments in Case of Police Surveillance of RNC Protesters
Jan 23, 2008 00:08 EST

The city must disclose its arguments about why documents on police surveillance of protesters before the 2004 Republican National Convention should be kept confidential, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV in Manhattan said the court won't consider a sealed affidavit by David Cohen, the New York Police Department's commissioner for intelligence.
"Permitting the submission of secret argument is antithetical to our adversary system of justice," Francis wrote, ruling that a revised statement by Cohen must be submitted publicly.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of some of more than 1,800 people arrested at the convention.

Cohen said in the declaration dated Dec. 7 that some information ordered disclosed by Francis in August could reveal the identities of undercover officers and confidential informants. It could also disclose methods of operation that would undermine law enforcement, Cohen argued.
Francis said in his ruling that Cohen could refer to secret documents without revealing sensitive information, since the magistrate judge has viewed the documents himself.

Gail Donoghue, special counsel in the city law office, said: "We are reviewing the ruling and considering all possible legal actions."
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the NYCLU, said the ruling is another example of the federal court making it "clear that the details of the NYPD's aggressive convention tactics cannot be kept behind closed doors."

He added: "If the NYPD wants to rely on its political-surveillance operation to defend its tactics, the department must disclose the details of that operation."
The NYCLU is seeking police records for the lawsuits stemming from the four-day convention at Madison Square Garden, where President Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second term in office. The NYCLU said the arrests violated the protesters' civil rights.
Source: AP News

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


By Andy Worthington

AlterNet January 22, 2008

This sentencing sends a message to the President that torture is justified for little more than thought crime.

The news that US citizen José Padilla has received a prison sentence of 17 years and four months should provoke outrage in the United States, although it is unlikely that there will be much more than a whimper of dissent.

The former gang member and convert to Islam -- whose arrest in May 2002 was trumpeted by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as that of a "known terrorist," who was "exploring a plan" to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a US city -- was once regarded as one of the most dangerous terrorists ever apprehended on American soil. Almost six years later, as he received his sentence, he was not actually accused of lifting a finger to harm even a single US citizen.

While this is shocking enough in and of itself, Padilla's sentence - in what at least one perceptive commentator called "the most important case of our lifetimes" - is particularly shocking because it sends a clear message to the President of the United States that he can, if he wishes (and as he did with Padilla), designate a US citizen as an "enemy combatant," hold him without charge or trial in a naval brig for 43 months, and torture him - through the use of prolonged sensory deprivation and solitary confinement - to such an extent that, as the psychiatrist Dr. Angela Hegarty explained after spending 22 hours with Padilla, "What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being's mind."

Padilla's warders had another take on his condition, describing him as "so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for 'a piece of furniture,'" but the most detailed analysis of the effects of his torture was, again, provided by Angela Hegarty in an interview last August with Democracy Now:

Juan Gonzalez: And have you dealt with someone who had been in isolation for such a long period of time before?

Dr. Angela Hegarty: No. This was the first time I ever met anybody who had been isolated for such an extraordinarily long period of time. I mean, the sensory deprivation studies, for example, tell us that without sleep, especially, people will develop psychotic symptoms, hallucinations, panic attacks, depression, suicidality within days. And here we had a man who had been in this situation, utterly dependent on his interrogators, who didn't treat him all that nicely, for years. And apart from - the only people I ever met who had such a protracted experience were people who were in detention camps overseas, that would come close, but even then they weren't subjected to the sensory deprivation. So, yes, he was somewhat of a unique case in that regard.

As if this were not worrying enough, it was what happened after Padilla's 43-month ordeal that sealed the President's impunity to torture US citizens at will. When it seemed that his case was within reach of the US Supreme Court, the government transferred him into the US legal system, deposited him in a normal prison environment, dropped all mention of the "dirty bomb" plot, and charged him, based on his association with two alleged terrorist facilitators, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, with participating in a Florida-based plot to aid Islamic extremists in holy wars abroad. When the case came to court last summer, the judge, Marcia Cooke, airbrushed Padilla's torture from history, insisting that it could not be discussed at all, and, after a trial regarded as farcical by many observers, Padilla and his co-defendants were duly found guilty.

Today's sentencing, after an unusually protracted two-week debate, has apparently brought the whole sordid saga to an end, with Padilla's torture only mentioned briefly in passing by Judge Cooke, who noted, "I do find that the conditions [for Padilla as an enemy combatant] were so harsh that they warrant consideration." Nevertheless, he received a longer sentence than either of his co-defendants (who were sentenced to 15 years and eight months, and 12 years and eight months, respectively), even though two jurors admitted to the Miami Herald that the jury as a whole "struggled to convict Padilla because the panel initially viewed him as a bit player in the scheme to aid Islamic extremists, unlike his co-defendants."

They certainly had a point. While the conviction of Hassoun and Jayyousi was based on coded conversations in 126 phone calls intercepted by the FBI over a number of years, Padilla was included in only seven of those phone calls. Groomed by his mentor, Hassoun, he had traveled to the Middle East and, in 2000, had applied to attend a military training camp in Afghanistan, using the name Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir. His application form, which, according to a government expert, bore his fingerprints, was apparently discovered during a CIA raid on an alleged al-Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan, but although the prosecution presented an alleged al-Qaeda graduation list with his Muslim name on it during the sentencing, they had been unable to provide any evidence during the trial that he had actually attended the training camp in Afghanistan.

In the end, Padilla's conviction hinged on the jury's determination that he had "joined the terrorism conspiracy in the United States before leaving the country." This was based on a single recorded conversation, in July 1997, in which he stated that he was ready to join a jihad overseas.

17 years and four months seems to me to be an extraordinarily long sentence for little more than a thought crime, but when the issue of Padilla's three and half years of suppressed torture is raised, it's difficult not to conclude that justice has just been horribly twisted, that the President and his advisors have just got away with torturing an American citizen with impunity, and that no American citizen can be sure that what happened to Padilla will not happen to him or her. Today, it was a Muslim; tomorrow, unless the government's powers are taken away from them, it could be any number of categories of "enemy combatants" who have not yet been identified.

For more on José Padilla and other US "enemy combatants," see Andy Worthington's book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison