Category: Error 10048

The Bush War Blues by Billy Bragg compliments of Leadbelly

I just happened to be trolling around the web as I’m oft wont to do when I found Billy Bragg’s appearance on the Henry Rollins show.

He does a very good job excoriating George W. Bush and his crew including Halliburton. Because if you don’t believe that the objectives of this war have been met, you need to step back and see who really benefits from this particular war. It wasn’t the U.S. or the Iraqi’s, definitely not. However the profits at Halliburton among other oil interests are astronomical.

Our normal budget for the United States Armed Forces is about $500 billion a year. But with Iraq and Afghanistan (remember them?) that scales up to $1 trillion a year. You could find Social Security on that for the next hundred years, among many other things. But now we know where the money is going, into the pockets of the fat cats of these corporations. The shareholders are also complicit, just look at their stock performance over the past month.

You’ve read my pieces where I go on and on about the evil that corporations represent. There is no clearer example than what is going on now.

I would dearly love to see our political system de-polluted. And to accomplish that we first much break the corporate dominance of not just our federal government, but even local governments.

Work to abolish constitutional protections for corporations. The theory of protection is based on false reasoning and decisions. In essence a court clerk inserted language into a decision that gave corporations de facto rights, same as we corporal beings.

Second work to enact real term limitations for legislators, mayors, etc.

I also believe the more parties, the better. Up until recently Italy had just such a situation and they seemed to do well enough. Maybe it’s our turn to try run off elections for President, or even city council seats.

Maybe then we won’t have to exercise our Constitutional rights. You know which one I’m talking about, if not visit the link and refresh your memory since it seems we’ve all become too complacent. Our founding fathers knew that governments could turn tyrannical or despotic and that is precisely what we have now. So they proscribed remedies for such things. They hadn’t counted upon the fourth estate of government, a media so savvy about controlling the emotional climate in the United States. But some of us can see past the fluff that they offer us as news. Multiple sources are a good start.

Republicans and Dirty Tricks

By now we all know that if a Republican candidate can’t capture votes with their ideas, they’ll instead attempt to disenfranchise voters.

It is no secret that Republicans will try anything to get elected. Just look at Steve Lafffey, he bought the RNC package hook, line and sinker. But Lincoln Chaffee was just too well loved. Even he couldn’t get past Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

But even when they try, they’re like the gang that can’t shoot straight as has been evidenced by the recent elections.

We’re on to their tricks. They hadn’t counted on the fierce presence of blogs and the web. But even now I’m starting to see lots of conservative blogs, etc. It’ll take a while for the pendulum to swing completely into the Democrats camp, but when it does it will be there for about twenty years. And with any luck this time they’ll have a solid majority so that the Republicans won’t get any press at all.

This is why protecting the environment is important

It seems that Bald Eagles have taken up residence in Philadelphia for the first time in 200 years.

And in the past few years we’ve had Red Tail Hawks nesting in Providence. What this means is that the Clean Air and Water Act, the banning of DDT and other pesticides, etc. has had a positive effect. Birds of prey only return to an area when the food supply is abundant and they feel they can safely raise their young.

Meanwhile we’ve got the Bush Administration wanting to drill in the ANWR, log pristine forests, and in general just totally disregard the Clean Air and Water Act. Not to mention totally playing down the global warming problems.

As an aside, I really have to organize my categories. I note there are a number of them now.

See em’ Spin It

The movie Spin by Brian Springer is now available on Google Video.

A little known fact is that the news feeds, etc. are pushed up to satellites and then shot right back down where anyone with a dish can tune in and watch. And that is precisely what Springer did.

It pretty much dissects the 1992 and 1996 elections cycles and their news coverage. One interesting example is that in 1992 I’d had no idea there was a sixth candidate in the Democratic primary for President. And it was a candidate I would have liked to have seen run since he had a plan to lop the military budget in half.

But the really irritating and grating part of the video is Pat Robertson. That old fraud should give it the hell up. He seems rather obsessed with taking over the Republican party, and he’s even more obsessed with gay people. Something tells me old Pat just might be a ‘mo himself. Sure, my gaydar is broken but sometimes a signal is so strong that it pings none the less. The thing is, I don’t want him on the team, if you know what I mean.

A great U2 and Bush Mashup on YouTube

Check this out.

And there’s more, as Bush does Lou Reed’s “The Wild Side”

George W. Bush and Tony Blair (No no, not Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder in a tennis match) singing “Endless Love”

And then Tony Blair by himself singing that 1981 Clash hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. This pre rock-the-casbah.

Unfortunately this one is for real. Colin Powell singing the Village People’s “YMCA”

So there really is some humor in politics.

Now this is interesting

Found this over on Polt’s Palace:

You are a
Social Liberal
(70% permissive)

and an…

Economic Liberal
(15% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Socialist

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Which btw correlates nicely with this page, I’m Tony P on that one and as is evident, I’m to the left of Ghandi. What’s more interesting is that all those people around me in the lower left quadrant are fellow RI’ers. No wonder we’re the bluest of the blue, and the state also has the highest percentage of Catholics in the nation. Catholicism here is less dogmatic and more about social justice, with the exception of the fact that the Bishop and his goons are always contests marriage equality.

Politicians Running for Cover in Rhode Island

In my last post about the federal judiciary going after corrupt politicians in Rhode Island I mentioned the 7/7 combo of politicians and corporations.

In it I predicted that leadership in one or both houses of the legislature would be ensnared in what is now called operation Dollar Bill. Sure enough, Joseph Montalbano the president of the Senate is a target. And CVS seems to be playing heavily into the investigations.

This is going to be explosive. Because now the dotted lines between the political and the corporations are going to be filled in to become solid connectors.

My next prediction is that to save his own ass Montalbano will give up lower ranking members of the Senate. Time will tell – but it is about time that the Providence Journal had something to report on.

Operation Dollar Bill
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, February 4, 2007
By Mike StantonJournal Staff Writer

When he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney, Robert Corrente identified combating public corruption as a top priority.
The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer

Politicians are looking over their shoulder, witnesses are lawyering up and the FBI and state police have spent many hours at the State House library, poring over the arcane details of committee votes and the travel of legislation.

Welcome to Operation Dollar Bill, the newly minted federal corruption probe that seeks to connect the dots between dollars, as in payoffs, and bills, as in legislation.

In the U.S. Attorney’s office in downtown Providence, overlooking the imposing white marble dome of the state capitol, the case is referred to simply as “the State House investigation,” says U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente.

Like a hurricane gathering force, a case that began three years ago with one state senator, John A. Celona, has gained sufficient strength to recently earn its own name in the FBI register. Not since Operation Plunder Dome, the corruption probe of Providence City Hall that brought down Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., has Rhode Island seen such a high-profile public corruption case.

And this case is bigger. While Plunder Dome focused on one mayor and one city, Operation Dollar Bill encompasses “multiple entities and a lot of players,” Corrente says.

Last week, when Celona was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for using his public office for private gain, a federal prosecutor stunned Rhode Islanders by telling the judge that Celona’s cooperation has spawned 14 “active investigations” of 7 politicians and 7 corporations for possible influence peddling.

The investigation reaches into the office of the Senate president, Joseph A. Montalbano, and the powerful Senate Finance chairman, Stephen D. Alves. Investigators are looking at Montalbano’s title work as a lawyer and Alves’ dealings as an investment adviser, searching for a possible nexus between their jobs and their political positions.

The trail has led to town halls in West Warwick, where Alves is a longtime political power and Montalbano received town title work, and Lincoln, where the FBI has also been asking questions. According to people familiar with the case, the probe has also looked at a powerful ex-legislator with financial ties to the CVS drugstore chain — former Senate President William V. Irons.

Irons, who earned insurance commissions related to CVS employees, has denied any impropriety. His lawyer declined comment Friday. CVS declined Friday to comment on whether it has provided documents to investigators regarding Irons. A corporate spokeswoman said that the company stands by its previous comments that it has cooperated and will continue to do so.

Where any of this will lead remains to be seen. Corrente noted last week that an investigation does not necessarily lead to criminal charges, and he declined to identify specific targets.

“Fourteen investigations today could be 11 tomorrow and 16 to 20 the day after,” said Corrente, in an interview. “It’s fluid. Some may close out [with no charges], while others may lead to new territory. It’s unclear how many prosecutable cases will emerge.”

The U.S. Attorney, who has been mentioned as a candidate to succeed U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres — who presided over corruption cases against Celona and Roger Williams Medical Center — has dedicated one-fifth of his staff resources to Operation Dollar Bill. Gerard B. Sullivan has relinquished his position as chief of the office’s criminal division to supervise a task force that includes the FBI, Rhode Island State Police, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Labor.

With Celona having pleaded guilty and former Roger Williams executives Robert A. Urciuoli and Frances P. Driscoll convicted at trial last fall, the State House probe two weeks ago shifted its focus to CVS, the nation’s largest drugstore chain. Executives John R. Kramer and Carlos Ortiz were indicted on corruption charges for allegedly putting Celona on the payroll as a $1,000-a-month consultant to influence pharmacy-choice and other legislation worth millions of dollars in sales.

Authorities have also investigated another company with whom Celona had financial dealings — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. A former state senator and Blue Cross vice president, Thomas Lynch, resigned after disclosures regarding the insurer’s financing of Celona’s cable television show on health care. To date, there have been no charges.

Corrente understands the coziness of Rhode Island. He was born in North Providence, the home base of Celona and Montalbano, and lives in East Greenwich, down the street from Jack Kramer, the CVS executive. When he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney 2 1/2 years ago, Corrente identified combating public corruption as a top priority.

“Whatever the end result, in terms of number of prosecutions or individuals targeted, I hope people involved in political life will get the message,” Corrente said. “They have to conduct themselves honestly, ethically and fairly.”

Sullivan, a veteran prosecutor who has handled violent crimes and drug cases, including prosecutions of the Latin Kings, says that those sorts of crimes are the most horrific imaginable –but they are generally confined to surviving family and friends. Public corruption, he noted, “affects everyone in the state.”

“It’s so widespread that everyone loses faith in government.”

MONTALBANO CONFIRMED to The Journal last fall that he had been questioned by the FBI, but declined to elaborate.

At the same time, officials in West Warwick told the newspaper that they had talked to the FBI and produced records regarding Montalbano’s hiring to perform title work in the town — work that Montalbano says he inadvertently failed to disclose, and which is now the subject of a complaint before the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

Jeanne-Marie DiMasi, a former West Warwick councilwoman, said that she told the FBI that Alves had recommended Montalbano for the title work. The matter was controversial because two of the parcels abutted the proposed site of the Narragansett Indian-Harrah’s casino. Montalbano had supported legislation putting the casino question on the November ballot, where it failed. But he said there was no conflict.

“I’ve been an attorney since 1979 and a senator for 18 years, and I stand by my reputation for honesty and integrity and the good, honest work I’ve done for my constituents,” Montalbano said at the time. “I’m not a target of an FBI investigation that I’m aware of.”

Montalbano did not return calls Friday regarding recent developments.

A State House banking lobbyist, William Farrell, was recently approached by the FBI regarding allegations that he, Celona and Montalbano had met with an executive of a bank that had gotten legislation passed in 2001.

Farrell confirmed Friday that there was legislation, and that he golfed at Newport Country Club that fall with Celona and Montalbano. But he said there was no meeting with anyone from the bank, which he declined to identify.

“I have never met with Joe Montalbano and any bank executive about title work,” said Farrell, a lobbyist for 25 years. He declined to elaborate on the FBI’s recent inquiry. “I don’t want to get into the substance of any ongoing investigation.”

The FBI also has approached officials in Lincoln regarding Montalbano and Alves.

Former Finance Director Stephen Woerner and ex-Councilman Dean L. Lees Jr. said Friday that an FBI agent asked them last year about the town’s hiring of a company where Alves is a vice president of investments.

Woerner, now finance director in Johnston, said that the town pension fund lacked a proper asset-allocation plan and that the company was hired after a competitive bidding process. He said that he didn’t deal with Alves.

“[The FBI] was looking into Alves’ connection” to the company, Woerner said. “Unbeknownst to me, Alves worked there. But everything was handled aboveboard.”

Woerner said that the FBI agent also asked him whether Montalbano did tax-sale work in Lincoln. Woerner replied that Montalbano did, but that he had been doing so since prior to Woerner’s tenure as finance director began in 2003.

Lees said that the FBI was “very attentive to the pension system.”

Reached yesterday by phone for comment on the investigation, Alves said “I don’t know anything about that.” The FBI also has taken an interest in legislation creating a municipal court in Lincoln. According to Lees, he was questioned about his efforts to promote a bill at the General Assembly to create a municipal court — an issue that met with opposition from the Senate leadership and died in 2003 in Celona’s Corporations Committee.

“There was concern about who would have more clout in selecting who the judge would be,” Lees said.

Montalbano, who has been a municipal court judge in North Providence, voiced concerns that “a good, competent judge” be chosen, recalled Lees. “He wanted a good, competent person, but he never said who specifically he had in mind.”

The bill eventually passed. In November 2005, Frederic A. Marzilli, a lawyer who has done work for the General Assembly, was appointed municipal court judge in Lincoln.

Lees said that local council members have also been approached by the FBI.

THE COMMON THREAD in the various investigations under way, says U.S. Attorney Corrente, is information provided by John Celona — and the fact that “all, in one fashion or another, involve public corruption.”

With 14 investigations involving seven politicians, one would assume that at least some of the targeted politicians figure into multiple investigations. But Corrente declined to offer any breakdowns, or say whether the list includes former officeholders or politicians outside the General Assembly.

He said that an investigation of the Laborers’ union and related training funds, which became public two years ago when FBI agents searched union offices, is not dead. Among those whose offices were searched was Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio, administrator of the New England Laborers’ training fund. Corrente would not say whether that investigation has been folded into Operation Dollar Bill, or whether that is why the Department of Labor is involved in the task force.

Asked why cases can take so long to develop, Corrente said: “These investigations involve a lot of people and entities and a staggering number of documents that require analysis. Then there’s additional legal work to determine who should get indicted.”

Just because prosecutors are focused on one case that has become public with an indictment doesn’t mean that they aren’t also working on others, he said.

“This investigation obviously has proceeded in steps,” Corrente said. “As it grew and encompassed more individuals and entities, we needed more people to keep up.”

With cases potentially stacking up like jets waiting to take off at a busy airport, how do prosecutors prioritize?

“That’s what we deal with all day,” Corrente said. “There are an unbelievable number of factors that go into that calculus. That’s our job. That’s what we do. Juggle.”

The Judicial Backlash against Pols starts Locally

This is such happy news to hear. Seems John Celona, former state Senator in RI is now staring at 30 months in the hoosegow for selling his senate office for cash to CVS and Roger Williams Hospital. What’s more interesting is that we’re getting a 7/7 combo from Celona – seven legislators and seven corporations are under investigation. By the way, this is NOT a state case, this is a federal case which means now there’ll be that much more case law to go after corporate influence over legislators everywhere. And RI could be the very first state in which that happens.

Now – follow me here. Let’s say approximately half of those 7 of each roll on other companies and legislators. In the first round we’ll get conservatively get 3.5 more legislators and 3.5 more corporations. Again, I’m being conservative in my estimate. Considering that the entire legislature is comprised of only 113 people, you can see how this going to spread like wildfire. This is because you pretty much know that all your elected officials have their hand in one cookie jar or another.

Now, of those seven legislators I guarantee that most all are in top leadership positions in the house and senate. You know they’ll roll on the rank and file to save their own skins.

And I love how Celona is all of a sudden remorseful. Yeah, right. How can you tell if a politician is telling a lie? His/her mouth is moving. Judge Torres can’t see through the act which surprises me as Torres is known as a tough judge. But then I’ve heard that Torres has some political aspirations of his own which might explain everything.

I see this as encouraging that people are finally waking to the danger of allowing corporations any influence on the legislative process.

Here’s the ProJo article in its entirety:

Celona, Urciuoli sentenced in corruption case
A prosecutor says an ongoing investigation could lead to 14 more criminal cases, involving seven politicians and seven corporations.
01:57 PM EST on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By STEVE PEOPLES, KATE BRAMSON and JACK PERRYprojo.com staff writers

PROVIDENCE — Former state Sen. John A. Celona, once one of the most powerful lawmakers at the Rhode Island State House, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for selling his office for personal gain.

Shortly after, U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres also penalized form er Roger Williams Medical Center president Robert A. Urciuoli for stealing Celona’s honest services, with a sentence of three years in prison.

Urciuoli took responsibility for Celona’s hiring and requested leniency for co-defendant Frances Driscoll, a former vice president at Roger Williams. “It was my decision and my decision alone to hire John Celona,” Urciuoli said.

Driscoll was convicted in October with Urciuoli. She was found guilty of one count of mail fraud, but acquitted of conspiracy in Celona’s hiring. Her sentencing, originally set for 11:30 a.m. today, is now due to start at 2 p.m.

Celona, a North Providence Democrat who had served as chairman of the powerful Senate Corporations Committee, two years ago admitted selling his office to Roger Williams Medical Center, the drugstore chain CVS and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. He gained $319,000

He pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud in August 2005. Celona was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison this morning for each of the three counts, but they are to be served concurrently. Celona faced 1 1/2 to 3 years.

He was ordered into federal custody March 2.

During this morning’s proceedings, a prosecutor said that Celona’s cooperation in an ongoing investigation could lead to 14 more criminal cases, involving seven politicians and seven corporations.

Celona’s cooperation with investigators has already led to the convictions of Urciuoli and Driscoll and the indictments this month of two former CVS executives.

The federal government’s lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan, characterized the information Celona has provided to federal prosecutors as unparalleled.

Sullivan didn’t go into any details about the seven additional politicians and corporation under investigation. Sullivan said it’s not clear how many prosecutions will come from those 14 separate investigations.

An emotional Celona spoke for six minutes, telling Senior U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres, that he will continue cooperating.

“I would like to express my remorse, apologize and take full responsibility for my past actions. I am truly sorry,” Celona said. “I am in some ways glad all of this has happened.”

That’s because, Celona said, in the past three years he has become “a better husband, better father and in some respects just a regular person living in the real world.”

“I was living in a superficial world in the State House,” he said.

At that moment, through tears and with his voice cracking, Celona professed his faith in Jesus Christ.

The last three years have affirmed that “family and honor are the most important aspects of life, not power, not politics, not glory,” he said.

Judge Torres told Celona, “I have a feeling that you are genuinely remorseful for what you’ve done.”

Referring to future prosecutions, he said, “You’ve testified and apparently will be testifying in future cases.”

Torres spoke of the culture of corruption and said he hopes this sentence will send a message to other office-holders.

“The message doesn’t seem to have sunk in,” he said, referring to other cases in Rhode Island.

“I hope, but I’m not sure I can say I’m optimistic, that what’s happened in this case” will deter further corruption, Torres said.

Celona must also serve two years of supervised release. As conditions of that supervised release, he must commit to eight hours of community service each week for two years.

He also must pay the cost of the supervised release, the cost of which is $3,450.

Urciuoli was convicted after the same trial of one count of conspiracy and 35 counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced today to 3 years on each of the counts and all are to be served concurrently.

Urciuoli has until noon April 2 to turn himself in to prison officials. Torres denied a request to stay Urciuoli’s sentence until his appeal can be heard.

The jurors acquitted a third defendant, Peter J. Sangermano Jr., who owned the Village at Elmhurst, where Celona was paid $257,000 as a consultant from 1998 to 2004.

A good use for parking meters

My interest in this article was piqued because it related to parking meters. In essence, if you’re a resident of a city you’re not only paying taxes to support the infrastructure, etc. You’re paying it over and over and over again.

And here in Providence, RI they’ve installed close to 2,000 new parking meters as well as red light cameras (Which I’ve ranted about in a previous post.)

But who would have thought of using parking meters for explosives testing. I do note of those several thousand new meters in my city, some seem to go missing on a regular basis. You just see the depression where the meter was ripped out.