Oct 17, 2005
Prop 1 on all ballots statewide will amend the state's constitution so that legislature will merely needed to drag its feet on state budgets till past the April 1st deadline every year to go over the head of the governor (whom ever is governor) and begin writing its own budget. The diffused accountability amongst the state legislature’s 212 members (Senate & Assembly) will allow legislature to spend wily-nily especially given the fact that by 2010, the turnover of Republican legislators and the growth of the Democratic enrollment and constituency will ensure State Senate to turn to a majority Democratic before the next census & redistricting that will ensure gerrymandering to keep both the Assembly & Senate in Democratic control for at least a generation.
I of course look forward to the state capitol being in solid control of the Dems, what troubles me is if the budget doesn’t have only one head on the chopping block then no one will have to deal with the consequences of the budget. As long as the governor is the one with most skin in the game, the governor will be able to keep petty and impulsive budgetary items from actually getting financed.
Oct 12, 2005
First published: Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Proposition 1, on the ballot this November, is a proposal to amend the New York Constitution to change the budget process.
Any change to a broken process may sound like a good idea at first to those of us who watch our state Legislature daily from the up-close environs of the Capital Region, but Proposition 1 would actually make things worse.
It would give the 212 members of the Legislature more authority over the budget when the state fiscal year begins without a new budget in place. In other words, if our senators and Assembly members don't pass the budget on time, we'd reward them with more power to draft the budget than they already have, weakening the role of our governor (whomever it may be at the time). Obviously, the Legislature will delay the budget vote just to increase its bargaining power.
A reform law passed some years ago provided that legislators wouldn't get paid once the fiscal year begins until they get the budget done. That's only fair. The rest of us don't get paid unless we perform our job duties.
But Proposition 1 would insulate politicians from that sort of discipline. It would allow them to be paid regardless of how late the budget is.
Weighing in against Proposition 1 are former Gov. Hugh Carey and Gov. Pataki, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Citizens' Union, the small-business members of the National Federation of Independent Business, the Business Council of New York State and the Citizens Budget Commission.
All of us are urging New Yorkers to vote no on Proposition 1 on Election Day. We need real reform in Albany. Proposition 1 would only make the state's fiscal problems worse.
ROGER A. HANNAY
Hannay Reels Inc.
Oct 10, 2005
There are so many reasons to say no to Proposal 1, we're counting down the top 10. In Reason No. 10, we pointed out that Bruno and Silver have hoarded power while mismanaging the Legislature for years. Today, we have Reason No. 9: Prop 1 is a full-employment act for lawyers, who will use its gaps and inconsistencies to tie state government up in knots of litigation.
For example, the amendment would have a contingency budget kick in when lawmakers miss the annual deadline to approve a spending plan. But who figures out the details of this stopgap budget, and when? Does it need approval from the governor, the Legislature or both? Who implements the across-the-board cuts that are supposed to happen when tax revenues come up short? No one can say for sure.
These are not academic questions. The Assembly and Senate have been late with the budget 20 of the last 21 years. With Bruno and Silver in charge, they're bound to blow it again. Proposal 1 will give them an incentive to stall, since they can throw out the governor's draft and write their own as soon as the deadline passes. And if Bruno and Silver can't agree with Gov. Pataki on a real budget, no way will they be on the same page on a contingency budget full of painful cuts.
So New Yorkers will do what New Yorkers do when they disagree: Sue the pants off each other. The governor will sue the Legislature. The Legislature will sue the governor. Every special interest with gored oxen, and they'll be plentiful, will sue the governor and the Legislature. It will take years, if not generations, for the courts to sort it out. And government will sink to new depths of gridlock.
New York just got through six years of litigation between Pataki and the Legislature over budgetary powers. In December, the Court of Appeals upheld the time-honored principle that the governor should play the dominant role in budgeting. This spring, for the first time since the Reagan administration, the budget arrived more or less on time. And, not coincidentally, Silver, Bruno and their members redoubled their effort to reverse the ruling and weaken Pataki's authority - hoping voters wouldn't notice the gaping holes in their plan.
Don't let this hunk of Swiss cheese see the light of day. Vote no on Prop 1.
Oct 5, 2005
By BRIAN ROSS and RICHARD ESPOSITO
Oct. 5, 2005 — Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history.
Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I don't know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House," said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.
Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.
In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore. When interviewed by Philippine television, he remarked how valued Philippine employees were at the White House.
"I think what they like most is our integrity and loyalty," Aragoncillo said.
Classified Material Transferred by E-Mail
Officials say the classified material, which Aragoncillo stole from the vice president's office, included damaging dossiers on the president of the Philippines. He then passed those on to opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation.
"Even though it's not for the Russians or some other government, the fact that it occurred at the White House is a matter of great concern," said John Martin, who was the government's lead espionage prosecutor for 26 years.
Last year, after leaving the Marines, Aragoncillo was caught by the FBI while he worked for the Bureau at an intelligence center at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
According to a criminal complaint, Aragoncillo was arrested last month and accused of downloading more than 100 classified documents from FBI computers.
"The information was transferred mostly by e-mails," said U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie at the time of Aragoncillo's arrest.
Since that arrest, officials say Aragoncillo has started to cooperate. He has admitted to spying while working on the staff of Vice President Cheney's office.
Aragoncillo began working at the White House in 1999. Officials are now trying to learn how he landed the job, when he started spying, and how he escaped detection for so long.
"Of course, it is a source of embarrassment when you find out that this kind of activity has been carried out literally right under your nose," said Martin, the former espionage prosecut
Oct 1, 2005
Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, September 25, 2005
The battle between a grieving family and the U.S. military
justice system is on display in thousands of pages of
documents strewn across Mary Tillmans dining room table in
suburban San Jose.
As she pores through testimony from three previous Army
investigations into the killing of her son, former football
star Pat Tillman, by his fellow Army Rangers last year in
Afghanistan, she hopes that a new inquiry launched in
August by the Pentagons inspector general finally will
answer the familys questions:
Were witnesses allowed to change their testimony on key
details, as alleged by one investigator? Why did internal
documents on the case, such as the initial casualty report,
include false information? When did top Pentagon officials
know that Tillmans death was caused by friendly fire, and
why did they delay for five weeks before informing his
There have been so many discrepancies so far that its
hard to know what to believe, Mary Tillman said. There
are too many murky details. The files the family received
from the Army in March are heavily censored, with nearly
every page containing blacked-out sections; most names have
been deleted. (Names for this story were provided by
sources close to the investigation.) At least one volume
was withheld altogether from the family, and even an Army
press release given to the media has deletions. On her
copies, Mary Tillman has added competing marks and scrawls
countless color-coded tabs and angry notes such as
Contradiction! Wrong! and ????
A Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony,
as well as interviews with Pat Tillmans family members and
soldiers who served with him, found contradictions,
inaccuracies and what appears to be the militarys attempt
For example, the documents contain testimony of the first
investigating officer alleging that Army officials allowed
witnesses to change key details in their sworn statements
so his finding that certain soldiers committed gross
negligence could be softened.
Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known
a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and
died in service to his country yet was critical of
President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served
a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests
ranged from history books on World War II and Winston
Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite
Unlike Cindy Sheehan who has protested against President
Bush because of the death of her son Casey in combat in
Baghdad Mary Tillman, 49, who teaches in a San Jose
public junior high school, and her ex-husband, Patrick
Tillman, 50, a San Jose lawyer, have avoided association
with the anti-war movement. Their main public allies are
Sen. John McCain, RAriz., and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose,
who have lobbied on their behalf. Yet the case has high
stakes because of Pat Tillmans status as an all-American
A football star at Leland High School in San Jose and at
Arizona State University, Tillman was chosen Pac-10
defensive player of the year in 1997 and selected by the
Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft the following spring.
He earned a bachelors degree in marketing from Arizona
State and graduated summa cum laude in 3 1/2 years with a
3.84 grade point average. Ever the student, Tillman not
only memorized the playbook by the time he reported for the
Cardinals rookie camp but pointed out errors in it. He
then worked on a masters degree in history while playing
His 224 tackles in a single season (2000) are a team
record, and because of team loyalty he rejected a five
year, $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams for a
one-year, $512,000 contract to stay with Arizona the next
Moved in part by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
Tillman decided to give up his career, saying he wanted to
fight al Qaeda and help find Osama bin Laden. He spurned
the Cardinals offer of a three year, $3.6 million contract
extension and joined the Army in June 2002 along with his
brother Kevin, who was playing minor-league baseball for
the Cleveland Indians organization.
Pat Tillmans enlistment grabbed the attention of the
nation and the highest levels of the Bush administration.
A personal letter from Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld, thanking him for serving his country, now resides
in a storage box, put away by Pats widow, Marie.
Instead of going to Afghanistan, as the brothers expected,
their Ranger battalion was sent to participate in the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Tillmans saw
combat several times on their way to Baghdad. In early
2004, they finally were assigned to Afghanistan.
Although the Rangers are an elite combat group, the
investigative documents reveal that the conduct of the
Tillmans detachment A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th
Ranger Regiment appeared to be anything but expert as it
advanced through a remote canyon in eastern Afghanistan on
April 22, 2004, on a mission to search for Taliban and al
Qaeda fighters in a village called Manah.
According to the files, when one of the humvees became
disabled, thus stalling the mission, commanding officers
split Tillmans platoon in two so one half could move on
and the other could arrange transport for the disabled
vehicle. Platoon leader Lt. David Uthlaut protested the
move as dangerous, but he was overruled. The first group
was ordered out in the late afternoon, with Pat Tillman in
the forward unit. Kevins unit followed 15 to 20 minutes
later, hauling the humvee on an Afghan-owned flatbed truck.
Both groups temporarily lost radio and visual contact with
each other in the deep canyon, and the second group came
under attack from suspected Taliban fighters on the
Pat Tillman, according to testimony, climbed a hill with
another soldier and an Afghan militiaman, intending to
attack the enemy. He offered to remove his 28-pound body
armor so he could move more quickly, but was ordered not
to. Meanwhile, the lead vehicle in the platoons second
group arrived near Tillmans position about 65 meters away
and mistook the group as enemy. The Afghan stood and fired
above the second group at the suspected enemy on the
opposite ridge. Although the driver of the second groups
lead vehicle, according to his testimony, recognized
Tillmans group as friendlies and tried to signal others
in his vehicle not to shoot, they directed fire toward the
Afghan and began shooting wildly, without first identifying
their target, and also shot at a village on the ridgeline.
The Afghan was killed. According to testimony, Tillman, who
along with others on the hill waved his arms and yelled
cease fire, set off a smoke grenade to identify his group
as fellow soldiers. There was a momentary lull in the
firing, and he and the soldier next to him, thinking
themselves safe, relaxed, stood up and started talking. But
the shooting resumed. Tillman was hit in the wrist with
shrapnel and in his body armor with numerous bullets.
The soldier next to him testified: I could hear the pain
in his voice as he called out, Cease fire, friendlies, I
am Pat fing Tillman, dammit. He said this over and over
until he stopped, having been hit by three bullets in the
forehead, killing him.
The soldier continued, I then looked over at my side to
see a river of blood coming down from where he was I saw
his head was gone. Two other Rangers elsewhere on the
mountainside were injured by shrapnel.
Kevin was unaware that his brother had been killed until
nearly an hour later when he asked if anyone had seen Pat
and a fellow soldier told him.
Tillmans death came at a sensitive time for the Bush
administration just a week before the Armys abuse of
prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public and sparked a
huge scandal. The Pentagon immediately announced that
Tillman had died heroically in combat with the enemy, and
President Bush hailed him as an inspiration on and off the
football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice
in the war on terror.
His killing was widely reported by the media, including
conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter, who called
him an American original virtuous, pure and masculine
like only an American male can be. His May 3, 2004,
memorial in San Jose drew 3,500 people and was nationally
Not until five weeks later, as Tillmans battalion was
returning home, did officials inform the public and the
Tillman family that he had been killed by his fellow
According to testimony, the first investigation was
initiated less than 24 hours after Tillmans death by an
officer in the same Ranger battalion. His report, delivered
May 4, 2004, determined that soldiers involved in the
incident had committed gross negligence and should be
appropriately disciplined. The officer became a key witness
in the subsequent investigation. For reasons that are not
clear, the officers investigation was taken over by a
higher ranking commander. That officers findings,
delivered the next month, called for less severe
The parents, protesting that many questions were left
unanswered, found a sympathetic ear in McCain, who Mary
Tillman later said was greatly admired by her son. Tillman
was well known in Arizona because of his success there as a
college and pro football player. McCain began to press the
Pentagon on the familys behalf, and a third probe finally
was authorized. Its report was delivered in January.
The military is saying little publicly about the Tillman
case. Most Army personnel who were involved in the Tillman
incident or the investigations declined to comment publicly
when contacted by The Chronicle. The inspector generals
press office also declined to comment, saying only that the
new probe is openended.
Over the coming weeks, Pentagon investigators are scheduled
to carry out new interviews with many of the soldiers,
officers and others involved in the incident. As they carry
out their reassessment, potentially controversial points
-- Conflicting testimony. In his Nov. 14, 2004,
interrogation, the first investigator expressed frustration
with watching some of these guys getting off, what I
thought was a lesser of a punishment than what they
shouldve received. And I will tell you, over a period of
time the stories have changed. They have changed to, I
think, help some individuals.
The investigator testified that after he submitted his
report on May 3, higher-ranking officers permitted soldiers
to change key details of their testimony in order to
prevent any individual from being singled out for
They had the entire chain of command (inaudible) that were
involved, the [deleted], all sticking up for [deleted]
And the reason the [deleted] called me in because the
[deleted] changed their story in how things occurred and
the timing and the distance in an attempt to stick up for
their counterpart, implied, insinuated that the report
wasnt as accurate as I submitted it the first
In another section of his testimony, he said witnesses
changed details regarding the distance, the time, the
location and the positioning in Tillmans killing.
Another disputed detail was whether the soldiers were
firing while speeding down the canyon or whether they
stopped, got out and continued shooting. In testimony in
the third investigation, the soldiers said they did not
stop. However, the medical examiners report said Tillman
was killed by three bullets closely spaced in his forehead
a pattern that would have been unlikely if the shooter
were moving fast. Spc. Russell Baer, a soldier pinned down
by gunfire on the hillside near Tillman, said in an
interview with The Chronicle that at least two soldiers had
gotten out of the humvee to fire uphill. One other soldier
confirmed this account to a Tillman family member.
One soldier dismissed by the Rangers for his actions in the
incident submitted a statement in the third investigation
that suggests the probe was incomplete: The investigation
does not truly set to rest the events of the evening of 22
April 2004. There is critical information not included or
misinterpreted in it that could shed some light on who is
really at fault for this, he wrote.
-- Commanders accountability. According to the documents
and interviews, Capt. William Saunders, to whom platoon
leader Uthlaut had protested splitting his troops, was
allowed to change his testimony over a crucial detail
whether he had reported Uthlauts dissent to a higher
ranking commander. In initial questioning, Saunders said he
had done so, but when that apparently was contradicted by
that commanders testimony, Saunders was threatened with
perjury charges. He was given immunity and allowed to
change his prior testimony.
The regiments commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bailey, was
promoted to colonel two months after the incident, and
Saunders, who a source said received a reprimand, later was
given authority to determine the punishment of those below
him. He gave administrative reprimands to six soldiers,
including Uthlaut, who had been seriously wounded in the
face by shrapnel in the incident. Uthlaut who was first
captain of his senior class at West Point, the academys
highest honor was dismissed from the Rangers and
re-entered the regular Army.
It seems grossly inappropriate that Saunders would
determine punishment for the others when he shares
responsibility for the debacle, Mary Tillman said.
Baer told The Chronicle that commanding officers were to
blame for the friendly fire because they split the platoon
and ordered it to leave a secure location in favor of a
region known as a Taliban stronghold.
It was dumb to send us out during daylight, said Baer,
who was honorably discharged from the Rangers earlier this
year and lives in the East Bay.
Its a well-known military doctrine that privates first
learn going through basic training if you are in enemy
territory and you are stopped for a prolonged period of
time, the best thing to do is to wait until nightfall. Why
they thought that moving us out in broad daylight from our
position, dragging a busted humvee slowly through a known
hotspot after we had been stranded there all day was a good
idea will forever elude me. Who made that decision? Bailey?
Saunders? Thats what I want to know.
-- Inaccurate information. While the military code gives
clear guidance for informing family members upon a
soldiers death when cases are suspected of being a result
of friendly fire, that procedure was not followed in the
Tillman case. After Tillmans death, the Army gave
conflicting and incorrect descriptions of the events.
On April 22, the family was told that Tillman was hit with
enemy fire getting out of a vehicle and died an hour later
at a field hospital.
Although there was ample testimony that Tillman died
immediately, an Army report dated April 22, 2004, from
the field hospital in Salerno, Afghanistan, where his body
was taken suggested otherwise. While it stated that he
had no blood pressure or pulse on arrival, it stated that
cardio pulmonary resuscitation had been conducted and that
he was transferred to the intensive care unit for further
On April 23, all top Ranger commanders were told of the
suspected fratricide. That same day, an Army press release
said he was killed when his patrol vehicle came under
On April 29, four days before Tillmans memorial, Gen. John
Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, and other top
commanders were told of the fratricide. It is not known if
Abizaid reported the news to Washington. Mary Tillman
believes that with her sons high profile, and the fact
that Rumsfeld sent him a personal letter, the word quickly
reached the defense secretary. If Pat was on Rumsfelds
radar, its pretty likely that he would have been informed
right away after he was killed, she said. White House,
Pentagon and Army spokesmen all said they had no
information on when Bush or Rumsfeld were informed.
On April 30, the Army awarded Tillman a Silver Star medal
for bravery, saying that through the firing Tillmans
voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to
the enemy on the dominating high ground.
On May 2, the acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee was told
of the fratricide.
On May 7, the Armys official casualty report stated
incorrectly that Tillman was killed by enemy forces and
died in a medical treatment facility.
On May 28, the Army finally admitted to Tillmans family
that he had been killed by friendly fire.
The administration clearly was using this case for its own
political reasons, said the father, Patrick Tillman. This
cover-up started within minutes of Pats death, and it
started at high levels. This is not something that
(lower-ranking) people in the field do, he said.
The files show that many of the soldiers questioned in the
inquiry said it was common knowledge that the incident
involved friendly fire.
A soldier who on April 23 burned Tillmans bullet riddled
body armor which would have been evidence in a
friendly-fire investigation testified that he did so
because there was no doubt it was friendly fire that killed
Tillman. Two days later, Tillmans uniform and vest also
were burned because they were soaked in blood and
considered a biohazard. Tillmans uniform also was burned.
The officer who led the first investigation testified that
when he was given responsibility for the probe the morning
after Tillmans death, he was informed that the cause was
After they received the friendly-fire notification May 28,
the Tillmans began a public campaign seeking more
information. But it was only when the Tillmans began
angrily accusing the Pentagon of a coverup, in June 2005,
that the Army apologized for the delay, issuing a statement
blaming procedural misjudgments and mistakes.
-- Legal liability. In testimony on Nov. 14, the officer
who conducted the first investigation said that he thought
some Rangers could have been charged with criminal
intent, and that some Rangers committed gross
negligence. The legal difference between the two terms is
roughly similar to the distinction between murder and
The Tillmans demand that all avenues of inquiry remain
I want to know what kind of criminal intent there was,
Mary Tillman said. Theres so much in the reports that is
(deleted) that its hard to tell what were not seeing.
In Congress, pressure is building for a full public
disclosure of what happened. I am committed to continuing
my work with the Tillman family to ensure that their
concerns are being addressed, said Rep. Honda. He added
that he expects the investigation to do the following: 1)
provide all factual evidence about the events of April 22,
2004; 2) identify the command decisions that contributed to
Pat Tillmans death; 3) explain why the Army took so long
to reveal fratricide as the cause of Pat Tillmans death;
and 4) offer all necessary recommendations for improved
procedures relating to such incidents.
Patrick Tillman drily called the new Army probe the
latest, greatest investigation. He added, In Washington,
I dont think any of them want it investigated. They
(politicians and Army officials) just dont want to see it
ended with them, landing on their desk so they get blamed
for the cover-up. The January 2005 investigation concluded
that there was no coverup.
Throughout the controversy, the Tillman family has been
reluctant to cause a media stir. Mary noted that Pat
shunned publicity, refusing all public comment when he
enlisted and asking the Army to reject all media requests
for interviews while he was in service. Pats widow, Marie,
and his brother Kevin have not become publicly involved in
the case, and they declined to comment for this article.
Yet other Tillman family members are less reluctant to show
Tillmans unique character, which was more complex than the
public image of a gung-ho patriotic warrior. He started
keeping a journal at 16 and continued the practice on the
battlefield, writing in it regularly. (His journal was lost
immediately after his death.) Mary Tillman said a friend of
Pats even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the
antiwar author, to take place after his return from
Afghanistan a meeting prevented by his death. She said
that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it
justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, Pat was very critical
of the whole Iraq war.
Baer, who served with Tillman for more than a year in Iraq
and Afghanistan, told one anecdote that took place during
the March 2003 invasion as the Rangers moved up through
I can see it like a movie screen, Baer said. We were
outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were
dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin
and Pat, we werent in the fight right then. We were
talking. And Pat said, You know, this war is so f
illegal. And we all said, Yeah. Thats who he was. He
totally was against Bush.
Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to be
identified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bushs
Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen White a Navy SEAL who
served with Pat and Kevin for four months in Iraq and was
the only military member to speak at Tillmans memorial
said Pat wasnt very fired up about being in Iraq and
instead wanted to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He said
both Pat and Kevin (who has a degree in philosophy) were
amazingly well-read individuals very firm in some of
their beliefs, their political and religious or not so
Baer recalled that Tillman encouraged him in his ambitions
as an amateur poet. I would read him my poems, and we
would talk about them, Baer said. He helped me grow as an
Tillman subscribed to the Economist magazine, and a fellow
soldier said Tillman created a makeshift base library of
classic novels so his platoon mates would have literature
to read in their down time. He even brought gourmet coffee
to brew for his platoon in the field in Afghanistan.
Baer said Tillman was popular among his fellow soldiers and
had no enemies. The guys who killed Pat were his biggest
fans, he said. They were really wrecked afterward. He
called Tillman this amazing positive force who really
brought our whole platoon together.
He had this great energy. Everybody loved him. His former
comrades and family recall Tillman as a born leader yet
remarkably humble. White, the Navy SEAL, recalls one day
when some 19-year-old Ranger came and ordered him to cut
an acre of grass.
And Pat just did it, he cut that grass, he didnt complain.
He could have taken millions of dollars playing football,
but instead he was just taking orders like that.
Mary Tillman says thats how Pat would have wanted to be
remembered, as an individual, not as a stock figure or
political prop. But she also believes Pat was a real hero,
not what they used him as.
For the moment, all that is left are the memories and the
thick binders spread across Mary Tillmans dining room
table in San Jose. As she waits for the Pentagon
investigators to finish their new probe, she wonders
whether they will ask the hard questions. Like other family
members, I just want accountability, she said. I want
ITS HARD TO KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE
Thats the lament of Mary Tillman, above, a teacher of
special education in a San Jose public school. She has long
pressed the Army to reopen its investigation into the
friendly-fire killing of her son, Pat Tillman, in a canyon
in Afghanistan on April 22, . The persistence of Mary
Tillman and her former husband, Patrick Tillman, was
rewarded when the Pentagons inspector general opened a new
inquiry in August, the fourth such probe. Mary Tillman says
she hopes questions created by discrepancies in past
testimony will finally be answered.
STORY CHANGES OVER TIME
An officer in Pat Tillman's Ranger battalion who directed
the first investigation into the soldier's death served as
a witness on Nov. 14, 2004, in the third investigation,
which was led by Brig. Gen. Gary Jones. The first
investigator complained that the officers in charge of the
igation had allowed Rangers involved in the shooting to
change their testimony.
THREAT OF PERJURY CHARGES
An excerpt from a March 3, 2005, memorandum by
Brig. Gen. Gary Jones describes how Capt. William Saunders,
the commander of Pat Tillman's Ranger company, was
threatened with perjury charges. Jones' memo said Saunders
made false claims that he had informed his superiors that
platoon commander Lt. David Uthlaut had protested orders
given to him leading up to the incident. Despite this
threat, Saunders was allowed to change his testimony and
was granted immunity.
E-mail Robert Collier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Page A - 1
Sep 24, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 - Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said Thursday that he had been warning the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq was hurtling toward disintegration, a development that he said could drag the region into war.
"There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together," he said in a meeting with reporters at the Saudi Embassy here. "All the dynamics are pulling the country apart." He said he was so concerned that he was carrying this message "to everyone who will listen" in the Bush administration.
Skip to next paragraph
Prince Saud's statements, some of the most pessimistic public comments on Iraq by a Middle Eastern leader in recent months, were in stark contrast to the generally upbeat assessments that the White House and the Pentagon have been offering.
But in an appearance at the Pentagon on Thursday, President Bush, while once again expressing long-term optimism, warned that the bloodshed in Iraq was likely to increase in the coming weeks.
"Today, our commanders made it clear," he said after a meeting on Iraq with senior military officers, "as Iraqis prepare to vote on their constitution in October and elect a permanent government in December, we must be prepared for more violence."
American commanders have repeatedly warned that insurgents would try to disrupt the voting, as they did before legislative elections in January.
Mr. Bush said that if the United States left Iraq now, it could turn into a haven for terrorists, as Afghanistan was before the fall of the Taliban.
"To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," he said.
Prince Saud, who is in Washington for meetings with administration officials, blamed several American decisions for the slide toward disintegration, though he did not refer to the Bush administration directly.
Primary among them was designating "every Sunni as a Baathist criminal," he said.
Saudi Arabia styles itself as the capital and protector of Sunni Islam, and the prince's remarks - at times harsh and at other moments careful - were emblematic of the conflicted Saudi-American relationship.
A senior administration official, reacting to Prince Saud's remarks, said, "The United States values and respects his view, and we all share a common concern for the future and stability of Iraq." He declined to be identified, under administration policy.
Prince Saud said he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week and added that American officials generally responded to his warnings by telling him that the United States successfully carried off the Iraqi elections and "they say the same things about the constitution" and the broader situation in Iraq now. On Thursday, in fact, the senior administration official said, "The forward movement of the political process is the best answer."
Prince Saud argued: "But what I am trying do is say that unless something is done to bring Iraqis together, elections alone won't do it. A constitution alone won't do it." Prince Saud is a son of the late King Faisal and has been foreign minister for 30 years.
The prince said he served on a council of Iraq's neighboring countries - Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait as well as Saudi Arabia - "and the main worry of all the neighbors" was that the potential disintegration of Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states would "bring other countries in the region into the conflict."
Turkey, he noted, has long threatened to send troops into northern Iraq if the Kurds there declare independence. Iran, he asserted, is already sending money and weapons into the Shiite-controlled south of Iraq and would probably step up its relationship, should the south become independent. Saudi Arabia has long been wary of Iran's influence in the region, given that it is a Shiite theocracy.
"This is a very dangerous situation," he said, "a very threatening situation."
David E. Sanger contributed reporting for this article.
Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), reportedly the White House choice to succeed Trent Lott (R.-Miss.) as Senate majority leader, is a major shareholder in HCA, a for-profit hospital chain founded by his father and brother. HCA reportedly provides abortions to its customers.
So now Republicans face this question: If it is disqualifying for their Senate leader to make offensive remarks interpreted as endorsing an immoral policy that denied African-Americans equal rights, is it also disqualifying for their Senate leader to make money from a hospital chain that denies unborn babies the right to life?
Frist has deposited his major stockholdings in a "blind trust" chartered Dec. 28, 2000. A schedule of the original assets in this trust filed with the Senate showed holdings in 16 companies. Frist reported the value of these assets, as per Senate rules, within broad ranges (e.g. $1,001-$15,001). If the lowest possible value is assigned to each holding, Frist at that time had invested a minimum of $566,015 in 15 other companies, while investing at least $5,000,001 in HCA.
That would mean that approximately 89% of his holdings were in this company.
Furthermore, on its face, the trust agreement appears structured to allow the administrators to maintain this heavy concentration in HCA stock. It also specifically instructs the administrators to inform Frist if they divest entirely from any holding, including HCA. And, finally, it gives Frist the power to directly order the administrators to divest from HCA or any other holding that Frist determines "creates a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof."
HCA does not trumpet its reported involvement with abortion. But, in April, Catholic Financial Services Corporation (CFSC), a mutual fund company, announced that it was starting an S&P 500 Index Fund that would "exclude companies on the abortion issue"—and that HCA was one of only six companies on the index that would be excluded on these grounds. A spokesman for the mutual fund explained to me last week that the company excludes hospital chains that perform abortions and pharmaceutical companies that deal in drugs that induce abortion.
On December 18 and 19, I placed several calls to HCA corporate spokesman Jeff Prescott, to ask him directly whether abortions were performed in HCA facilities, or whether the company refuted CFSC’s determination that they were. I left him voice messages to this effect, and repeatedly told his secretary my questions. At 5:00 p.m. on the 19th, as press time approached, the secretary left me lingering on hold with no answer. When I hung up and called back, I got Prescott’s voice mail again and left him one last message. He never returned my call.
I also spoke with Sen. Frist’s spokesman, Nick Smith. I explained to Smith my understanding that the terms of Frist’s "blind" trust allowed the administrators to maintain a heavy concentration in HCA, while allowing Frist to order the sale of this stock, and while also compelling the administrators to inform Frist if they divested entirely from HCA or any other holding. I cited the specific passages in the trust to this effect. I also asked Smith to clarify Frist’s position on abortion—which has confounded pro-lifers over the years—and why Frist would not divest, since he apparently could, from a company that reportedly performs abortions.
When Frist first ran for the Senate in 1994, the Nashville Banner reported that he "frequently" said he "does not believe abortion should be outlawed." In a May 1994 radio interview, the Banner reported, Frist said, "It’s a very private decision." One of Frist’s Republican primary rivals, Steve Wilson, the Banner said, "demanded that Frist sell his millions of dollars in stock in the Hospital Corporation of America [HCA], which Frist’s family founded. Some of the hospitals in the chain perform abortions."
Tennessee Right to Life PAC Director Sherry Holden, however, told the Banner that Frist had told her organization he was pro-life. "He said he’s against abortion, period—no exceptions, except rape and incest," said Holden.
Yet, an Oct. 10, 1994, Memphis Commercial Appeal report on a debate between Frist and incumbent Sen. Jim Sasser (D.-Tenn.) said: "There were some topics on which the candidates agreed—both said they’re personally opposed to abortion but don’t think the government should prohibit abortions."
I asked Smith whether Frist wanted to prohibit abortion either by constitutional amendment or by over-turning Roe v. Wade and enacting prohibitions in the states, including Tennessee.
Smith responded by faxing me a statement. The White House, pro-life Republican senators, and their grassroots supporters can decide whether it is responsive:
"These two issues [the HCA investment and abortion] are separate and distinct," wrote Smith.
"On his own accord, by placing his assets in a federally qualified blind trust, Sen. Frist took a step above and beyond to ensure there is no conflict of interest," wrote Smith. "He believes this was the proper and responsible thing to do. He has never been employed by, or served on the board of, HCA or any of its hospitals.
"As a U.S. senator who acts on public policy each and every day, his record on abortion is clear," Smith continued. "He is opposed to abortion except in the instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. He is opposed to federal funding of abortion. And in the Senate, he led the fight against partial-birth abortion."
His Senate website includes a statement saying, "No one can deny the potential human cloning holds for increased scientific understanding. But . . . I am unable to find a compelling justification for allowing human cloning today."
As Bill Clinton might say, that doesn’t rule out tomorrow—when he may be Senate majority leader.
Sep 23, 2005
Published: September 22, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 - Senator Bill Frist offered an explanation on Wednesday for the timing of his sale in June of his stake in HCA, the giant hospital company that his family founded, as its shares reached a peak and began a steep slide.
An aide to Mr. Frist, majority leader of the Senate and brother of the HCA chairman emeritus, disclosed the sale on Monday in an interview with Congressional Quarterly.
The senator's spokesman, Bob Stevenson, said Wednesday that Mr. Frist "made a conscious decision to divest himself of all HCA assets" so he could pursue an ambitious agenda of health care legislation free of any appearance of self-interest.
Since joining the Senate, Mr. Frist had been dogged by accusations about conflicts of interest from his HCA holdings, including "no fewer than 19 instances" of articles or other public accusations, Mr. Stevenson said.
Mr. Frist, who has said he will not run for another term as Tennessee senator, is widely considered to be weighing a presidential bid. That may give him another incentive to put some distance between himself and the company.
"Good fortune, isn't it?" asked Prof. John C. Coffee, an authority on securities law at Columbia.
Professor Coffee said such well-timed sales in the families of top executives were a red flag of possible insider trading and often drew regulatory inquiries, although just a small fraction of such instances lead to formal investigations.
The question, Professor Coffee said, is whether Mr. Frist received private information about the company performance from his brother or other insiders.
"There is no prohibition against a family member's dumping his stock in a company, unless it can be shown that the family member was tipped as to material nonpublic information," he said. "That seems to be the missing link."
Five years ago, the company pleaded guilty to 14 criminal counts for filing fraudulent Medicare reports and paying doctors kickbacks for referrals. It eventually paid $1.7 billion in fines and penalties in connection with the case.
Mr. Frist's brother Thomas F. Frist Jr. had left the management and was vice chairman. But he returned as chief executive to help HCA recover. He remains its largest individual shareholder and chairman emeritus.
The stock bottomed out under $20 a share in 1999 in the federal fraud investigation, but it climbed back steadily. Over the first six months of this year, the stock rose, from about $40 a share to more than $58 at its peak in June.
Top executives took advantage of the run-up to exercise options and sell shares worth $165 million in the first six months of the year, with the heaviest selling in February and April, according to data from Thomson Financial, which tracks insiders' sales. Thomas Frist did not have any significant transactions.
Senator Frist had reported this year that he owned $7 million to $35 million in assets, including his HCA shares, that were in blind trusts managed by others to reduce the appearance of conflicts. Although more than $10 million of the initial holding of the trusts was shares in HCA, Mr. Frist's spokesman said Wednesday that he could not determine how many shares remained.
On June 13, his spokesman said, Mr. Frist told the managers to sell all his shares. The stock hit its peak at $58.22 a share nine days later, on June 22. By July 8, all the shares held by Mr. Frist and his wife and children were sold, his spokesman said, adding that Mr. Frist did not control the exact timing.
Five days after that, on July 13, HCA announced that its second-quarter earnings would fall below Wall Street projections because of lower than expected hospital admissions and higher than expected numbers of patients lacking insurance. Its stock fell 9 percent, to $50.05 a share, that day on the New York Stock Exchange, and closed on Wednesday further down, at $47.41 a share.
Also on Wednesday, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights of Santa Monica, Calif., said it sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for an investigation of the sale.
Sep 22, 2005
Washington, D.C. - Congressman John Sweeney, joined by Congressmen Peter King and Vito Fossella, today gave the International Freedom Center (IFC) a Friday ultimatum: Either present an acceptable plan for a museum at Ground Zero or face a Congressional hearing/investigation into the $2.7 billion in federal funding that will be spent at the site.
The lawmakers were joined at a press conference this morning by Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 widow, Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) and Edie Lutnick to raise the stakes in the ongoing battle to ensure that any museum at Ground Zero focuses exclusively on the events of 9/11. The IFC is expected to publicly present its final plan for the museum this Friday.
The hearing would be conducted by the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development, The Judiciary, District of
Columbia. Sweeney is Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee.
Sweeney said, “Ground Zero is sacred, hollowed ground,” Sweeney said. “Federal tax dollars have been secured by the American people to rebuild Lower Manhattan and honor those who lost their lives on September 11th. It is our duty to ensure that the intent of Congress, the memory of the fallen, and the will of the American people is not thwarted by a museum that could diminish the heroic efforts witnessed in a location where thousands of Americans were brutally killed.”
Fossella said, “It’s now or never for the IFC. The museum can do what is right or face the consequences of their actions. We have forewarned the IFC that it must offer a vision for the museum that reflects the heroism and tragedy that marked the most deadly attack ever on American soil. We will not allow the American people to subsidize a museum that blames this nation for the attacks of 9/11. The IFC should either honor the lives of all those lost on 9/11 or not exist at all.”
King said, “There is no place at Ground Zero for anything other than a memorial, an historic record of what occurred on September 11th. Anything else desecrates sacred ground.”
The IFC has been at the center of controversy for several months since Burlingame first revealed that museum officials planned to include anti-American programming. Fossella, King and Sweeney have taken the lead in Congress to block the IFC’s efforts, including pledging to withhold federal funding unless the museum is focused on September 11th and its aftermath.
Sep 19, 2005
By FREDRIC U. DICKER
September 19, 2005 -- REPUBLICAN superstar Jeanine Pirro's month-old campaign for Senate election has stumbled badly, has failed to catch on with voters and is having difficulty raising cash, GOP insiders contend.
The Westchester County district attorney, who is seeking the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in next year's balloting, held several tense private meetings with potential backers and contributors in recent days, leaving some convinced her campaign is in trouble.
Pirro conceded to The Post that her gaffe-marred August campaign announcement had created some unexpected problems, but she insisted she had recovered her stride.
"Am I happy with how the announcement went? No. Could it have gone smoother? Absolutely. I'm much better than that," she said. "I'm the one ultimately responsible for my campaign and I am thrilled with the way it is now going."
Pirro contended she "didn't know" how much money her campaign had raised so far. But a leading GOP activist insisted that Pirro "seems to be off stride" and "has been expressing disappointment in how things have been going, including her fund-raising."
Another GOP insider said Pirro "looks strained these days, and she is clearly not happy with the progress of her campaign."
Pirro and campaign strategist Kieran Mahoney held a dinner meeting Thursday night with Conservative Party leader Michael Long, but walked away with no commitment of support.
"Long was not very encouraging about the difficult task she has in front of her," the insider said. "He also told Kieran he thought Jeanine's campaign was launched too soon, that she wasn't ready."
Pirro claimed the dinner went well and insisted that there was "absolutely no truth" to claims that she'd told people she was disappointed with the campaign.
Meanwhile, one of the state's best-known Democratic operatives said Pirro's campaign appeared to be facing "major trouble."
"Where has she been?" asked the operative. "Where are the promised Pataki and Giuliani endorsements? Where are the big fund-raisers?"
Sep 14, 2005
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
With tears in his eyes, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes declared victory in a close race last night - but slammed his challengers for going negative in the bruising campaign.
In a squeaker, Hynes beat his main challenger, state Sen. John Sampson, 41% to 37%.
"I cry a lot. It was a hard-fought race," Hynes said as he walked into the Bay Ridge Manor. "I think it's not a good idea for lawyers to engage in the type of vitriol this campaign saw.
"This collective group demonstrated that progressive programs triumph over negative campaigning," he added.
Hynes spent $1 million to remain Brooklyn's top prosecutor as he battled Sampson, Mark Peters, who took 15% of the vote, and Arnold Kriss, who got 7%.
Sampson consultant Hank Sheinkopf said the close vote was a "stinging rebuke of the incumbent. What it tells you is that the majority of Brooklyn prefer a change."
The challengers in the contentious race all questioned Hynes' integrity during the campaign and pointed to Brooklyn's low felony conviction rates.
Hynes countered by boasting a 73% drop in crime in the borough since he took office in 1990, and touted his innovative drug rehabilitation programs.
Hynes had seven challengers at one point. Hopefuls apparently were encouraged after Sandra Roper, a virtually unknown lawyer, snagged 37% of the vote against Hynes in 2001.
With Sampson the only African-American in the race, some political experts said Hynes was vulnerable. But he won key endorsements from the watchdog group Citizens Union, the teachers union and a slate of elected officials.
The ongoing trial of Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman also served as a backdrop to the race.
Hynes investigated Norman - a former political ally - in 2002 and brought corruption charges against him. Norman backed Sampson, who pledged to reexamine all indictments if elected.
Sep 9, 2005
Sep 2, 2005
Bush does a fly over the states devastated by Hurrican Katrina: it saddened him that his summer vacation was cut short by 2 days
The national debt rising higher and higher (of course Bush and his administration will blame the 10 Billion in aid to Hurricane victims and the war of choice in Iraq) and this won't stop the GOP drive to permanently eliminate inheritance tax, make the government revenue cuts from Bush's first term permanent, and ever expanding defense department budget to pay for missile defense systems that will never work, the latest stealth technology (as if Al queda had any use of radar stations), and the payoffs to Haliburton and other defense contractors that have stolen billions ...that's with a B... from the American tax payer.
Gas prices will of course go up despite Hugo Chavez' offer to give millions of discounted barrels of oil to poor neighborhoods, as well as Bush tapping the strategic petroleum reserve. Why, you may ask would prices go up while the market is being flooded with cheaper oil. First Bush will decline the Venzuluan President's offer out spite. Second he is not tapping our strategic petroleum reserve of that many barrels of oil when considering how much oil is use in the United States. Third the oil companies despite record breaking fiscal quarters of profit for last 2 years see this as another opportunity to gauge the America public.
Looting after the Bush adminstration fails to plan for the aftermath... I think I heard this one already 2 years ago
Published: September 2, 2005NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 2 - Fires and explosions jolted an area across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter this morning in a city... (Read Article)
Sep 1, 2005
Aug 31, 2005
City Coucilman David Yassky Endoreses Sampson for Brooklyn DA: Sampson found to be Unqualified by the NYS Bar Association
State Sen. John Sampson has hit a streak of bad luck recently: his quit field director Tahaka Robinson, running/ran out of money, New York State Bar Association found him as being the only unqualified candidate running for Brooklyn DA, and now a "Colonizer" as some Black leaders have taken to call Yassky has endorsed him.
Aug 29, 2005
DUMP HYNES, ELECT PETERS Editorials
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles "Joe" Hynes is seeking a fifth term as the chief law enforcement officer of the state's biggest county. He shouldn't get it. Brooklyn needs a more effective and scrupulously nonpartisan prosecutor.Hynes'... (Read Article)