Craig bows to the inevitable and will resign

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photo by Buddy Stone courtesy of Flickr

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig will resign from the Senate amid a furor over his arrest and guilty plea in a police sex sting in an airport men’s room, Republican officials said Friday.

Craig will announce at a news conference in Boise Saturday morning that he will resign effective Sept. 30, four state GOP officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Word of the resignation came four days after the disclosure that Craig had pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge arising out of his June 11 arrest during a lewd-conduct investigation at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The three-term Republican senator had maintained that he did nothing wrong except for making the guilty plea without consulting a lawyer. But he found almost no support among Republicans in his home state or Washington.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter appeared Friday to have already settled on a successor: Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, according to several Republicans familiar with internal deliberations.

Craig’s spokesman, Dan Whiting, had said earlier that the senator would announce his career plans Saturday. The spokesman would not say whether Craig intended to resign.

Craig has been out of public view since Tuesday, when he declared defiantly at a Boise news conference: “I am not gay. I never have been gay.” But Republican sources in Idaho said he spent Friday making calls to top party officials, including the governor, gauging their support.

There has been virtually none publicly.

Asked Friday at the White House if the senator should resign, President Bush said nothing and walked off stage.

Republican officeholders and party leaders maintained a steady drumbeat of actions and words aimed at persuading Craig to vacate his Senate seat.

GOP lawmakers, hoping to get the embarrassment to the party behind them quickly, stripped Craig of leadership posts on Wednesday, one day after they called for an investigation of Craig’s actions by the Senate Ethics Committee. Craig complied with the request.

With his wife, Suzanne, at his side, Craig said he had kept the incident from aides, friends and family and later pleaded guilty “in hopes of making it go away.”

Craig, 62, has represented Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century and was up for re-election next year.

Republican officeholders and party leaders wanted Craig to give up his seat in the Senate as soon as possible. Their preference, according to several officials, was for a successor to be selected and ready to take the oath of office when the Senate returns from its summer vacation next week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Craig’s conduct “unforgivable” and acknowledged that many in the rank and file thought Craig should resign.

Republicans, worried about the scandal’s effect on next year’s election, suffered a further setback Friday when veteran Virginia Sen. John Warner announced he will retire rather than seek a sixth term. Democrats captured Virginia’s other Senate seat from the GOP in the 2006 election and have sought to line up former Gov. Mark Warner to run if the seat became open.

The contest for control of the next Senate was already tilted against Republicans, who must defend 22 of 34 seats on the ballot next year, before the Craig scandal and Warner’s announcement.

With a GOP candidate other than Craig, Republicans would stand a much better chance of keeping his Idaho seat in 2008. Idaho is one of the nation’s most reliably Republican states. The GOP controls the statehouse and all four seats in Congress, and Bush carried the state in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote.

Risch, the lieutenant governor, served for seven months as governor last year after former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was named interior secretary. Risch had said earlier he was interested in Craig’s Senate seat if Craig did not seek re-election in 2008.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, also had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Craig, but the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because Craig has not resigned, said Otter would choose Risch.

Mark Warbis, a spokesman for Otter, said the governor would not comment until he hears from Craig.

Craig served in the House before winning his first Senate term in 1990 and compiled a strongly conservative voting record.

On Thursday, the Minneapolis airport authorities released a tape recording of Craig’s interrogation minutes after he encountered a plainclothes officer in an adjacent stall in an airport restroom.

Craig and airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia disagreed about virtually everything that had occurred — including whether there was a piece of paper on the floor of the stall and the meaning of the senator’s hand gestures.

Craig denied that he had used foot and hand gestures to signal interest in a sexual encounter.

“I’m not gay. I don’t do these kinds of things,” Craig told the officer. “You shouldn’t be out to entrap people.”

Karsnia accused Craig of lying and grew exasperated with his denials.

“Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we’re going down the tubes,” Karsnia said

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Larry Craig’s revised statement to the Media

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Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, made the following statement at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

BOISE, Idaho  — “First, please let me apologize to my family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans for the obvious and unnecessary lie I’m about to tell. I did nothing at the Minneapolis airport I’m willing to cop to. I regret my stupid decision to plead guilty and the shame and derision that has brought to my wife, family, friends, staff, and fellow Idahoans. For that, I offer this, the lamest apology in the history of all mankind.

“In June, I overreacted, told the truth, and it was a politically poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, somehow, for the second year in a row, I keep being exposed as someone with the proclivity to solicit sex in a public toilet.  I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a stupid mistake, and I deeply regret it. I could have lawyered up and muddied the waters sufficiently to get this charge thrown out, but I didn’t for rather transparent reasons.  I have now retained counsel and I am asking my counsel to review this matter to see if he can get me out of this s#*tstorm.

“For a moment, I want to put my state of mind into context on June 11. For eight months leading up to June, I had been relentlessly and viciously exposed for what I am by the Idaho Statesman. If you’ve seen today’s paper, you know why. Let me be clear: I am not willing to admit to being gay and never have been.

“Still, without leaving me a shred of dignity, the Statesman has exposed my extra curricular fornication. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman’s persecution and the deliciously sarcastic gossip it has fueled around Idaho. Again, that overreaction was a mistake, because if my Republican colleagues were willing to let  the obvious lies of  Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Alberto Gonzales pass unchallenged for years, I don’t understand why they can’t back me up one more time. Furthermore, I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and should have immediately hired an attorney and public relations mouthpiece to spin the lie of the century on my behalf. I wasn’t eager to face the music, but I should have done so anyway.

“I love my wife, family, friends, staff and Idaho. But I love serving Idaho in Congress more. Over the years, I have accomplished nothing for Idaho, and I desperately hope Idahoans will allow me to continue to do that. There are still fascist goals I would like to accomplish and hypocrisy I’d like to revel in.  I still cling to the delusion that I can be an effective leader for the religious right. Next month, I will announce the fact that I will not seek re-election.  I am just putting this face-saving B.S. out there as a Hail Mary pass to see whether or not there are enough gullible troglodytes left in Idaho to vote me back into the Senate.  

“As an elected official, I fully realize that my life is open for public ridicule and scrutiny, and I take full responsibility for the “brilliant idea” of blaming the Media for exposing my hypocrisy and the mistake in judgment I made in attempting to handle this matter myself.”

“It is clear, though, that through my actions I am obviously lying to Idahohans and the American people. For that, I ask the people of Idaho on bended knee to please look the other way and let this pass down the memory hole like Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraq, Impeachment, and all the rest of the crap in Washington. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze let me be a Senator again!!!!!!!!”

Southern Political Report

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Complicating Harold Ford, Jr’s nascent bid for the Tennesse Governor’s mansion is the fact that Uncle John, a former state Senator, has been sentenced to 66 months in prison for taking bribes. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the scoop:  

John Ford sentenced to 66 months in prison

John Ford was sentenced to 66 months in prison this morning for his April conviction of accepting $55,000 in bribes in the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz public corruption investigation.

U.S. Dist. Court Judge J. Daniel Breen carefully noted his interpretation of advisory federal guidelines that suggest enhanced punishment for factors such as the amount and number of bribes, threatening witnesses, acceptance of responsibility and the fact that Ford was an elected official.

The judge said he was not convinced that Ford truly believes he did anything wrong and that the sentence must be a deterrence to others.

“The court is not convinced that a reduction for acceptance of responsibility is warranted in this case,” Breen said. “This trial reflects a person of greed and avarice, but at the same time a man with the ability to help others. This is the tragic dichotomy of this case.

“The sentence, therefore, should reflect the serious nature of this offense.”

Breen said he would impose no fine.

Ford, who showed no reaction to the sentence, will remain free pending notification from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when and where he will report.

Ford, 65, was one of 12 lawmakers or aides charged in the sweeping statewide investigation, 11 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted in trial.

Earlier this morning defense attorney Michael Scholl criticized the media and the government for “the persecution of John Ford” over the years.

“What I have seen is John Ford singled out in all of this,” Scholl told the judge, noting that other legislators have been convicted and faced lighter sentencing. “John Ford could have gone out and robbed and shot somebody and he would be facing less time than he is now. What I want to emphasize here is all the good that John Ford has done. We can’t just wipe out 30 years in the legislature.”

Witnesses have testified that the county has suffered in money it gets from the legislature because Ford is no longer there, Scholl added.

He also issued a plea for the judge to consider Ford’s support responsibilities for seven of his 12 children.

“John Ford has suffered for two years,” Scholl said. “They have taken everything he has. One of the things I’ve seen in this case is the awesome power of the government.”

Federal prosecutor Lorraine Craig said Scholl’s comments reflect the problems that the government has with Ford.

“He has been persecuted? He has suffered?” she said. “Is it a surprise that his family and friends did not see the side that we saw on those (undercover) tapes? This was Mr. Ford, the man who makes the deals. The man who goes first class. That’s the Mr. Ford we saw.”

She said Ford accepts no responsibility for his offense.

“The only thing he says he did wrong was that he trusted too much,” Craig told the judge. “No one persecuted Mr. Ford. He is here in this courtroom because of his own criminal conduct.”

 Speaking of Memphis Politics, Nikki Tinker, the corporate protege of Harold Ford, Jr is ramping up her campaign to take back Tennessee’s Ninth Congressional District for the Congressional Black Caucus against Steve Cohen.  The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the scoop:

WASHINGTON — Nikki Tinker began her 2008 campaign for the 9th Congressional District seat the night she lost the Democratic Party Primary to Steve Cohen last August by just 4,459 votes.

Cohen did too.

Cohen, who is white, says voters in Memphis will consider the job he’s doing rather than his skin color in deciding whether to re-elect him. Meanwhile, he tells anyone who will listen that he votes with the sensitivities of a black woman.

He and others suspect that a recent brouhaha among members of the Baptist Ministerial Association over his support of hate crimes legislation may be the opening salvo in a battle that Tinker would like to have center on, as she puts it, changing “the face and pace of our leadership.”

Tinker did not respond to repeated phone calls for this story, but her Washington-based spokesman, Cornell Belcher, explained Friday that she’s not interested in talking issues or Cohen’s record yet.

“Here’s where we are, to be straight with you: At this point, we want her talking to voters and raising money,” said Belcher, a partner in Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies. Talking about her differences with Cohen “is something that we really would rather not get into right now. … It will come, but it’s just not going to come right now.”

Cohen isn’t waiting. He says he doesn’t know where his opponent stands on most issues, and points out she’s never cast a legislative vote.

Tinker has spoken to the ministerial association and arranged for the company she works for as general counsel to provide a free airplane ride to members of the ministers’ congregations in June — after declaring her candidacy. Pinnacle Airlines flew the group in circles around Memphis on June 23 but, through spokesman R. Phillip Reed Jr., said the flight was “not directly or indirectly associated with the Tinker for Congress campaign.”

The ministers say the hate crimes bill passed by the House would limit what they could say about homosexuality from their pulpits, although the language of the law indicates it won’t. It’s pending in the Senate.

Among those who suspect that politics is involved in the hate crimes issue is Downtown developer Henry Turley, who has been Cohen’s campaign treasurer since he ran for the Shelby County Commission in the late 1970s.

“You can’t help but wonder, is this an effort to discredit Cohen?” Turley said last week. “It certainly makes you wonder since it’s an incorrect or spurious charge. …Why would they make that incorrect statement? … Why would someone say that unless there was an agenda?”

The issue didn’t draw fire during Ford’s terms. Records show Ford co-sponsored the hate crimes bill, broadening federal jurisdiction over crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, four times between 1997 and 2004 and voted for it in 2005. His stance never made headlines or drew criticism from the churches.

Turley said Tinker’s prodigious fund-raising in 2006 was impressive and he attributed it to two things: the influence of her boss, Philip H. Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, and her endorsement by the pro-abortion rights group Emily’s List, whose acronym stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast.

Some in Memphis publicly objected to Tinker receiving the February 2006 endorsement, saying Cohen’s abortion rights bona fides were better established, but hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in for Tinker from across the country.

A spokesman for Emily’s List, Ramona Oliver, said last week that no decision on an endorsement in the 9th Congressional District race has been made.

Cohen acknowledges he’s asked “a few people at the national level” to help derail future Emily’s List endorsement. The group endorses women only.

“I’d be shocked if Emily’s List would get involved in this election,” Cohen said.

African American State Senator Vivian Davis Figures is gearing up to challenge ignorant confederate incumbent U.S. Senator Jefferson Sessions in 2008

MOBILE — Democratic State Sen. Vivian Figures said Saturday she is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in the 2008 election, pledging to give Alabama “new progressive leadership.”

Figures, 50, made her announcement at Mobile Government Plaza where she began her political career in 1993 on the City Council. She moved from the council into her husband Michael Figures’ legislative seat after his death in 1996 and has served 11 years.

Sessions, 60, also of Mobile, won his second term in 2002 and will seek re-election. No other challengers have announced plans to run.

Senator Figures is delusional if she thinks she can win in Alabama.

Turning to Louisiana, State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy announced his change of party from Democratic to Republican in preparation for a run for U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, in 2008:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

BATON ROUGE — State Treasurer John Kennedy has switched political parties and will seek re-election to a third term this fall as a Republican, he announced Monday.

The change immediately vaults Kennedy to the top of the list of potential challengers to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, who is up for re-election to a third term in 2008 and is considered vulnerable by national Republicans.

Kennedy has been publicly considering the party switch for months, and he has become an increasingly ascerbic critic of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate on a variety of spending issues. 

In an e-mail message to supporters, Kennedy cited “certain fixed, bedrock principles” that he believes are more in line with the Republican Party than the Democrats, and said GOP officials have been more responsive to his proposals in recent years.

“For the past several years, it has increasingly been the case that those public servants who have embraced my ideas and my philosophy of trying new approaches are primarily Republicans,” Kennedy wrote.

He had been courted to switch parties by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and met recently with senior White House aide Karl Rove to discuss the matter.

The switch comes at a time when Republicans are losing ground nationally, having lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in the 2006 mid-term elections, but appear to be ascendant in Louisiana, where U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, enjoys a wide lead in the governor’s race.

Gonzales resigns

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Hat Tip: by Todd J. Gilman, Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Al Gonzales was a corporate lawyer with little political experience when Texas’ newly elected governor stopped by his office to size him up. They hit it off instantly, the scion of a political dynasty and the son of migrant workers.

Mr. Gonzales became counsel to the governor, and for the last dozen years, hitched his career to that of his patron.

But the ride has ended. Mr. Gonzales announced his resignation Monday morning after more than two years as the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general. He submitted the resignation to the president last Friday, and the president accepted Sunday during a meeting at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice,” Gonzales said, announcing his resignation effective Sept. 17 in a terse statement. He took no questions and gave no reason for stepping down.

The announcement ends a months-long battle with Republican and Democratic critics who said Mr. Gonzales should be forced out over the handling of FBI terrorism investigations and the firing of U.S. attorneys.

It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons,” President Bush said Monday in Waco, portraying Mr. Gonzales as the victim of “months of unfair treatment.”

Mr. Bush called him “a man of integrity, decency and principle,” and touted among Mr. Gonzales’ accomplishments some of the same legislation and policies that have most angered civil liberties groups, including the Patriot Act and the law allowing accused terrorists to stand trial by military commission.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will be acting attorney general until a replacement is found and confirmed by the Senate, Bush said.

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was among those mentioned as possible successors, though a senior administration official said the matter had not been raised with Chertoff. Bush leaves Washington next Monday for Australia, and Gonzales’ replacement might not be named by then, the official said.

When Mr. Gonzales moved to the White House, he became the legal architect of some of the administration’s most controversial policies – on torture, domestic snooping, detention of terror suspects – and a central player in fights over reshaping the judiciary to the president’s liking.

It was a mutually beneficial relationship, until the uproar over the bungled, politically charged firings of U.S. attorneys.

“They just bonded. Al is a very, very fine lawyer. He has a way of being direct and thorough and was just a great counselor, a great consigliere,” said Houston attorney Pat Oxford, a longtime friend of the president who was with him that day in Houston, when Mr. Gonzales’ career turned and Mr. Bush became his sole client. “It’s worked perfectly, until this moment.”

The Harvard-trained lawyer from Humble, Texas, loyally protected George W. Bush’s secrets and pushed the Bush agenda through five assignments, endearing himself with utter discretion on such matters as the governor’s youthful brushes with the law, and with valued legal advice on such knotty topics as death row clemency requests..

Mr. Gonzales worked for Mr. Bush as counsel to the governor, Texas secretary of state, justice on the state supreme court, White House counsel and, finally, U.S. attorney general – a cabinet post, the nation’s top law enforcement official, an achievement far beyond the dreams of his immigrant parents.

It was a meteoric rise, and a spectacular fall.

Critics say Mr. Gonzales can blame himself for the bungled firings, providing Congress with contradictory and misleading explanations and opening the administration to allegations of cronyism, politically-motivated interference and plain bad judgment.

“Embodying the American dream is not sufficient reason to serve as attorney general,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said recently. “The attorney general of the United States is the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer.”

Now, it’s back to private life for Mr. Gonzales. Mr. Oxford said in a recent interview that, “Any law firm in America would be honored to have Al Gonzales. … His career is still on the upward trajectory.”

The departure lets the president shed a major political albatross, but also costs him a longtime confidant. And it marks the near-purge of Mr. Bush’s Texas inner circle. Political guru Karl Rove’s last day at the White House is later this week. Adviser Dan Bartlett and White House counsel Harriet Miers, a former Dallas councilwoman, quit earlier this year.

It’s not clear why, after months of demands for his firing, Mr. Gonzales finally succumbed.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, speaking Monday morning on Fox News, called it a “sad day” and blamed a “hyperpartisan atmosphere” in Washington for the attorney general’s ouster.

“I think he was probably just worn down by the criticism,” said Mr. Cornyn who, like Mr. Gonzales, had served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. “I guess Al Gonzales had had enough.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Mr. Gonzales had turned the Justice Department into “a political arm of the White House,” and had “suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence.”

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., emphasized the “cloud of suspicion” that continues to hang over the attorney general.

Accusing him of manipulating the nation’s justice system for partisan political gains, Mr. Conyers indicated that Congress will keep pressing the administration for more details about political motives behind the firing of U.S. attorneys. “The continued stonewalling of the White House in the U.S. Attorney scandal has deprived the American people of the truth. If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts,” Mr. Conyers said.

Matthew Orwig, a Dallas lawyer who served President Bush for more than five years as chief federal prosecutor in East Texas, said Mr. Gonzales still has plenty of friends in Texas and will be welcomed home “with open arms” – and, probably, a decent private sector job.

But “whether he’s at the height of his marketability – that’s been somewhat devalued. Even his friends will have to say that his term was not successful,” said Mr. Orwig, who stepped down three months ago as U.S. Attorney and is now managing partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Dallas office.

“To a person, every one of the US attorneys who was asked to leave has more talent and integrity than the people who wanted them to leave, and I still don’t think there’s any plausible explanation of a good reason for the administration to ask them to leave,” Mr. Orwig said. “…At the beginning of his term people were concerned that Al Gonzales didn’t have the experience or talent to be attorney general, and by the end of his term people were concerned that Al just didn’t have the character. Why he held on, I don’t know.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Bishop Weeks: The Devil made me do it.

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Juanita bynum's husband

Hat Tip: by S.A. Reid, Atlanta Journal Constitution 

Global Destiny Ministries members on Sunday circled their spiritual wagons around their pastor, Bishop Thomas Weeks III, now charged with beating his estranged wife, the nationally known evangelist Juanita Bynum.

Most congregants approached for interviews after Sunday’s 8 a.m. service declined to comment on the marital problems of Weeks, 40, and Bynum, 48.

Those who did urged caution in taking sides in the issue and passing judgment on two people they consider spiritual giants, but also human.

“There are three sides to every story,” said Clarkston’s Shannon Mayers, a frequent visitor. “Nobody has the right to judge anybody. God is in the midst of that and will work it out.”

Member Maurice Adams, 26, of Atlanta said he was disappointed to hear the news but still considers Weeks his bishop.

“We all make mistakes. He deserves another opportunity,” Adams said. “I’m hurt, but I do respect him for being man enough to show his face today.”

Weeks took the pulpit two days after his surrender to authorities in connection with the alleged attack on Bynum. His remarks included appreciation for the prayers and support that he said have come in for him and his wife and thanks to those in attendance in spite of the controversy.

Weeks sparked thunderous applause and cheers when he asked members to tell those seated next to them: “We’ve got certain things going on right now, but I refuse to stop coming to the house God built.”

Weeks, wearing a dark suit and his customary bow tie, blamed the devil for the accusation that has him facing two felony charges. He didn’t, however, offer any specifics before introducing a guest minister who preached in his stead, then exiting the room.

The bishop is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly choking, kicking and hitting Bynum on Tuesday night in a parking lot at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel and with making terroristic threats to kill her. Both are felonies.

After turning himself in, he spent six hours in the Fulton County Jail before being released on $40,000 bond Friday.

The couple reportedly met at the Renaissance to talk about reconciliation after having been separated for several months.

Bynum, known for her fiery sermons that empower women, has been in seclusion since the attack and was not present at Sunday’s 8 a.m. service.

Global Destiny is a ministry the couple co-founded and pastor. In addition to Duluth, other church locations are in Los Angeles, Washington and London.

The charges are only the latest of Weeks’ troubles.

Authorities went to his Duluth home in June to serve an eviction notice.

Six months earlier, a former employee complained to police that Weeks got physical with her in escorting her from the church property.

Weeks is due in Fulton County Superior Court on Sept. 7.

Michael Vick’s Hall of Shame

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AMFOOT-NFL-FALCONS-VICK-DOGS

Hat Tip: Michael Wilbon, Washington Post 

It’s right there in black and white, on page 9 of the papers Michael Vick and his attorneys filed in federal court yesterday. Vick agrees and stipulates that he himself helped kill dogs. Damn. The exact words are “collective efforts.” Vick admits he participated in this ruthless act with his co-defendants. It’s no longer an allegation or simply the word of some ex-friends ratting him out to save their own hides. It’s Michael Vick, star NFL quarterback, admitting he endorsed the killing of dogs by methods including hanging and drowning. Wow. That’s the showstopper for a lot of us, not whether he’s guilty of a conspiracy charge, not even that his dogfighting enterprise involved illegal gambling activities.

Of course, it’s all one big sordid mess, from the dog killings to the gambling and lying about everything, which led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to announce yesterday afternoon that Vick would be suspended indefinitely. Of course, he needs to be sent away for a while. The statements of facts are even worse than many of us expected. Turns out it’s just as the co-conspirators said, just as Vick’s estranged daddy said when he told The Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that his boy has been involved in dogfighting for years.

Personally, I’d like to see Vick locked in a cage with six to eight of those pit bulls and nothing but his hands to use in his own defense.

Goodness, yes, an eye for an eye is sometimes the only just punishment.

Short of that, Vick needs to simply go away for a while. Don’t expect a long discussion here on whether he should or shouldn’t have the chance to play again. He should. If he pays his debt to society in the way this country’s legal system demands, and if somebody in the free market that is the NFL wants to employ him once he is reinstated, then he should play and face whatever the consequences might be.

And yes, Goodell is going to provide Vick with the chance to be reinstated at some point. When? Who knows. Maybe before the 2009 season, perhaps 2010. Even with what the NFL calls “lifetime bans” for players who have run afoul of the league’s substance abuse policy for a third time, there is opportunity for reinstatement.

The moronic Vick apologists will want to spin this ahead and say, “It’s behind him now” when it’s anything but behind him. It’ll take years to put this behind him. People will be harder on Vick for this than they would be for battering his wife, the logic of which, frankly, escapes me. Still, if Vick thinks his 4.4 speed will allow him to quickly outrun this he’s so wrong.

No, it’s all in front of us to digest, like Vick admitting that he provided most of the “Bad Newz Kennels” operational and gambling funds. You think that doesn’t scare the NFL? A star quarterback involved in the enterprise that attracts all manner of people looking for “inside” information and a way to manipulate the nation’s most important sport for huge financial gain? The gambling admission scares the NFL more than the dog killings because the G-word brings it all a little too close to home.

This whole Michael Vick episode just gets sleazier every day. Even while revealing to reporters that he tried to get his son to stop being involved with dogfighting, Vick’s daddy, Michael Boddie, reveals himself as a total sleaze. It was chilling to read the sentence from one of the interviews with him: “I wish people would stop sugarcoating it. This is Mike’s thing.” It’s not that I doubt the father’s word in this instance, just that his motives are so obvious and he’s so brazen in setting up what he hopes will be a money grab.

His boy, remember, is paying his rent. His boy, the QB, has been giving him cash payments every month to keep pop flush. And what does daddy do after asking for $1 million then $700,000, but rat him out? Hey, now that the meal ticket has blown more than $100 million of a $130 million contract, not to mention tens of millions in endorsement contracts, appearance fees and perks, the old man has to market himself, right?

Can’t you just see daddy coming out with a tell-all book of his own in the coming months to try and cash in the only way he can?

Sometimes when you look at the father you’ll get a hint into why the son has no clue as to accountability or even humanity.

Now, all that’s left are the pictures and sound of Vick in court in Richmond on Monday, Vick in the orange jumpsuit or whatever color it is as he walks into prison, and Vick being interviewed by Larry King or Barbara Walters or maybe on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” as he tries to begin his personal rehabilitation. Every step along the way, for the five weeks since Vick was indicted, we think it can’t get any worse, any more bizarre, any more unsavory. But it does, and with reaction that this is sure to elicit, with the protests and examinations of race and culture and how we try to make sense of something that is so senseless, it shouldn’t surprise anybody if this story simply keeps on keeping on.

John Singleton involved in fatal L.A. accident

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HAT TIP: TMZ 

John Singleton, acclaimed director of “Boyz in the Hood,” was involved in a fatal accident Thursday night in Los Angeles.

LAPD officers tell TMZ Singleton was driving his 2001 Lexus SUV around 8:00 p.m. on a Los Angeles street when a female pedestrian, not in a crosswalk, suddenly stepped out in front of Singleton’s car. Police say Singleton immediately stopped and waited for police and ambulances to arrive. The 57-year-old woman, identified as Constance Russell of Los Angeles, was taken to a nearby hospital where she unfortunately died Friday morning.

Police tell TMZ Singleton was not speeding at the time and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Cops say their investigation has concluded and they’ve determined that this is a “very, very unfortunate accident.”

Singleton will not be cited for any violation.

A call placed to Singleton’s agent was not immediately returned