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A non-political question for

A (non-political) question for readers: If you've had experience, good or bad, using a Tablet PC, I'd very much like to hear from you. I need to get one for note-taking and for marking up .pdf documents for display on TPM. Unfortunately, few places stock more than one or two, if any. So it's hard to get any hands-on experience on which are user-friendly, simple-to-use or even reasonably functional. And I've heard that many of them are just hopeless and not worth the price of purchase. So if you have any tips, pointers or advice, I'd greatly appreciate hearing them.

Next month a former

Next month, a former high-ranking New York <$NoAd$> City jails chief, Anthony Serra, who was promoted again and again by Bernard Kerik, finally goes on trial.

We pick up the story in progress from Dan Janison in Newsday ...

One former Correction Department official told Newsday: "This is about the integrity issues and questioning of whether you were 'on the team' that came up when Bernie ran the agency."

Kerik -- who remains under scrutiny because he abruptly withdrew his nomination last Friday for the nation's top security post -- once warned correction subordinates he was a "hunter of men" and demanded loyalty.

The trial of former three-star correction chief Serra is scheduled next month in State Supreme Court in the Bronx on dozens of counts, including grand larceny. The allegations are related to Serra's paid role in running Republican campaigns and the rebuilding of his suburban house using labor and materials that belonged to city taxpayers.

Another high-ranking department retiree who declined to be identified said that depending upon how testimony is elicited, new questions could arise about Kerik's command of the agency.


And some of the water laps at Rudy's feet ...

More recently, a retired correction officer, who the Bronx DA says was ordered to work on Serra's house while being paid by the city, was hired for a joint venture involving Giuliani's consulting in Florida, private sources confirmed. "Giuliani-Kerik cannot comment on questions related to a private contract," said Chris Rising, a spokesman for the consulting business.


A hunter of men, mumbo meets jumbo.

A word from the

A word from the <$NoAd$>opposition:

Do you hear any proponents of this mandatory Ponzi scheme, dare to admit that it`s not a constitutional function of the central government?

Does anyone speak to violating 10th Amendment rights, especially politicians who swear to support the Constitution? Hah!

It wouldn`t be anyone who supports mandatory Socialist Insecurity, but do you know of anyone who celebrated Bill of Rights Day, on Wednesday?

A great day to discuss Socialist Insecurity.

Do you hear of anyone addressing the fraud of this scam, that bilks FICA payers out of their contributions, if not living to collect any benefits, or having no eligible survivors?

We know politicians depend on Socialist Insecurity to keep their jobs, but it`s a national disgrace to defraud FICA payers out of their hard-earned pay.

Would the same politicians embrace private sector Ponzi schemes? I think not.

So many questions, so few answers.

Harry T. Tucson, AZ


Maybe too much fluoride in the water out there ...

Brief note In todays

Brief note: In today's Times piece on whether the Kerik nanny even exists, the authors report, apparently on Kerik lawyer Joe Tacopina's say-so, that "news reports that she was Mexican ... were mistakenly attributed to [Tacopina]."

On the contrary, says Tacopina, he has no idea where the woman came from or where she went.

As near as I can tell, the first published account to source this apparently false claim to Tacopina was the Sunday piece in the Post by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen.

So did they get it wrong?

I dropped a line to Mike Allen. And he says, no way (my phrasing, not his). According to him, Tacopina did tell them that the woman returned to Mexico six weeks ago, just as they reported on Sunday.

Drip drip drip. WNBC

Drip, drip, drip. WNBC in New York is reporting that Kerik may never have filled out the proper forms that would have allowed for a background check for him to become police commissioner either.

Late Update: A reader tells me that this is the form in question.

Even Later Update: The Times has a detailed piece on claims by the city Department of Investigations that they have "been unable to find any evidence that Mr. Kerik had filled out a background form, as usually required, before his appointment to the post by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani." Pay particular note to the discrepancy between what experts say Giuliani should have been told, or would normally have been told, and what he claims he was, or rather wasn't, told.

On Bernard Kerik keep

On Bernard Kerik, keep in mind the following. This isn't the first time the President appointed Kerik to a position of great importance. In May 2003 he sent him to Baghdad to run the Interior Ministry -- the Ministry in charge of maintaining domestic order and security in Iraq, so rather a big deal.

What did the White House find out about Kerik during his first background check? And did that have anything to do with his abrupt departure from Iraq roundabout September 1st, 2003, months earlier than he originally planned to stay?

In fact, the summer of 2003 wasn't even the first time there was a problem with Kerik and a background check.

We already know from Wednesday's piece by Elizabeth Bumiller in the Times that though he got limited CIA and FBI briefings in the aftermath of 9/11, he was also "offered a high security clearance by federal officials so he could receive classified intelligence about the city's security ... But he failed to return a questionnaire needed for the F.B.I. to conduct a background check, and he never received that clearance."

That's really a helluva thing to forget, isn't it? You're the head police officer in New York City on 9/11. And in the weeks and months after that, preventing another attack is priority numbers 1 through 100. And you don't get around to returning the form that will take care of the background check that will get you the highest level clearance possible? The access to the most detailed and most highly classified information?

Think about that. It's extraordinary.

When the Times asked him about on Tuesday, Kerik's spokesman said he didn't remember ever getting a questionaire.

Later, when he was sent out to Baghdad, says the Times, he never managed to fill out a key financial disclosure form.

On a lot of these special assignments abroad, after a certain point, if you haven't gotten your paperwork and your clearances taken care of, you have to come home -- suggesting a possible reason for Kerik's early departure.

So the White House already had experience with Kerik's resistance to any background checks. But that didn't seem to make him any less desirable as the president's choice to have him run domestic security in the United States.

Just how many forms did he lose or forget to fill out? And again, why the early trip home from Baghdad? Where the two things related? And where there forms he managed to lose in this nomination cycle?

Late Update: An article in Friday's Times retracts the claim that Kerik did not file the CPA financial disclosure form in 2003. In fact, says the Times, he did.

It turns out that

It turns out that there is at least one House Democrat who's coming out for ending the Social Security program. That would be Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida. He recently signed on as the cosponsor of Jim Kolbe's phase-out bill.

So, as long as we know where Boyd stands, let's find out where everyone else stands on the issue too. Where do your representatives and senators stand on phasing out or keeping Social Security? If you find out from press accounts or by calling up and asking your representative or senator, let us know what you hear.

And as long as we're on the subject let's chart out a key issue to keep in mind to make sense of who stands where. There is a key difference between having private accounts made up by carving funds out of Social Security and private accounts in addition to Social Security. The difference makes all the difference in the world. And the president wants the former, which is phase one of abolishing Social Security and replacing it with loosely-regulated private investment accounts for individuals.

So let us know what you hear. We're quite eager to know where Democrats and Republicans are coming down on this all-important issue.

Another point to consider

Another point to consider -- or, perhaps better to say, reconsider -- in the whole Cash-n-Kerik drama.

It's been known for a longtime that the Iraqi Interior Ministry under the CPA was rife with corruption. Lots and lots of US tax dollars went missing.

We also know, at a minimum, that Mr. Kerik really played it to the hilt mixing public service and private profit. And that's probably an understatement. As we've seen in the last few days there appear to be numerous cases where departments and organizations run by Kerik bought goods from contractors for which they seemed to have no use -- a key example being these over-priced security doors the NYPD bought from Georal. The companies often turn out to have been ones Kerik was getting money from in one fashion or another. (The Georal case is a rather complicated story, which we discussed at some length last night.)

In any case, it suggests a pattern.

And on top of that we know that when Kerik went out to Iraq he took a leave from the Homeland Security rain-making gig he'd set up with Giuliani. And after his hasty departure he went back to the same outfit.

All of this suggests that Kerik's time in country might be in store for a bit more scrutiny. And it turns out there's a decent place to start.

Go back to an article by Patrick Tyler and Raymond Bonner that ran in Times on October 4th, 2003. The headline is "Questions are Raised on Awarding of Contracts in Iraq." The central issue examined in the piece is why the Interior Ministry payed $20 million to a company in Jordan for (50,000) pistols, (20,000) Kalashnikovs and (10,000,000) rounds of ammunition for the Iraqi police when the US military was confiscating tons of weaponry every month from Iraqi military arsenals.

One governing council member said "There is mismanagement right and left, and I think we have to sit with Congress face to face to discuss this. A lot of American money is being wasted, I think. We are victims and the American taxpayers are victims." Another said, "I don't have the evidence, but I think there is corruption. This is a common grievance that people tell me ... It is totally unnecessary to buy [the guns] from outside the country."

The explanation for the purchase of the weaponry was that there would just have been too many logistical problems involved in purchasing or requisitioning the revolvers and rifles in small lots in country. And without any greater context or being able to judge the challenges the folks on the ground were facing at the time, that seems like it might be a reasonable explanation.

But it turns out there is some context. As you might have expected already, the contract was okayed on the authority of Bernard Kerik.

All the Iraqis on the Governing Council at the time seemed to think the deal stunk to high heaven, that Kerik was spending millions to bring weapons into a country that was already bursting with weapons. And when the Times wanted to talk to Kerik about the deal he didn't want to talk to them.

The Iraqis wanted Congress to investigate. Sounds like a good idea. Read the article. See what you think.

President Bush gives a

President Bush gives a thumbs-up to Al Gonzales over the Kerik vetting, say DeFrank and Bazinet in the Daily News.

"Rest assured, we did significant due diligence," says Dan Bartlett.

Come to think of it, Gonzales may have been on thin ice before this, having gone a while without a high-profile disaster.

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