Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor's achievement cheered in beach town where kin live

Sunday, May 31st 2009, 4:00 AM


Relatives of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor smile in Mayaguesa, Puerto Rico.

MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico - If only her father could see her now.

The woman poised to become the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court has attained superstar status in this beach town.

It's where Sonia Sotomayor escaped the Bronx's sea of concrete to splash in the ocean, where she sadly visits the humble grave of her father at Lajas Municipal cemetery.

Juan Sotomayor died of heart complications when his daughter was just 9 years old - decades before she would stand shoulder to shoulder with the President of the United States.

"It's something you can't even describe with words," said Tito Baez, 54, a cousin who lives in Mayaguez.

"When she is here, she just wants to spend time with family and always makes time to go see her dad.

"No matter how high up she is, she never forgets her roots."

Those roots are firmly planted in Mayaguez, about two hours west of San Juan, where Sonia fever has taken hold since her nomination.

Locals drive by Tito's Bakery and honk at Baez, yelling, "Congratulations!" and "Arriva Puerto Rican!" Baez bows humbly and whispers, "No, no - this is her honor, not mine."

The headlines in island newspapers proclaim: "Bravo Sonia!" and "From the Barrio to the Supreme Court."

Everyone here knows about Sotomayor's strong will and the inspiration she drew from her mother, Celina.

"Her mother was a strong woman," said cousin Eva Baez, 61.

Celina Sotomayor, now 82, left Mayaguez when she was about 16, and relatives were impressed to learn that in the U.S. she had become a nurse and joined the Army.

"She was a woman, pursuing her goals in that time," Eva said. "I always knew Sonia was going to be like her, if not better."

Sonia Sotomayor faced poverty and diabetes as a youngster, but she betrayed no scars of her struggles when she visited Mayaguez.

"You know, when she used to come here, she used to be a kid with us," Tito Baez said. "She took her shoes off and played with her cousins at the beach."

Relatives saw her determined side, though.

"She worked very hard and got very far with no money in her pockets," Tito Baez said. "She got into big-name universities with scholarships. Only rich kids go there."

Her Puerto Rico family rooted for her as she climbed the academic and legal ladder: Princeton, then a job with the Manhattan district attorney. Some of her relatives traveled to the U.S. when President Clinton nominated her to the Court of Appeals in 1997.

Cousin Irma Baez, who suffered a stroke a few years ago, has kept newspaper clippings detailing the achievements.

Obama sure Sotomayor would restate 2001 comment

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor smiles as President Barack Obama
AP – Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor smiles as President Barack Obama applauds, Tuesday, May 26, …

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday personally sought to deflect criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. "I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama flatly told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.

The quote in question from Sotomayor has emerged as a rallying call for conservative critics who fear she will offer opinions from the bench based less on the rule of law and more on her life experience, ethnicity and gender. That issue is likely to play a central role in her Senate confirmation process.

Obama also defended his nominee, saying her message was on target even if her exact wording was not.

"I think that when she's appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is," Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate.

The president's damage control underscored how the White House is eager to stay on message as the battle to publicly define Sotomayor picks up.

Obama's top spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told reporters about Sotomayor: "I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor."

Gibbs, however, said he did not hear that from Sotomayor directly. He said he learned it from people who had talked to her, and he did not identify who those people were. Sotomayor herself has made no public statements since her nomination became official Tuesday and was not reachable for comment.

A veteran federal judge, Sotomayor is poised to be the first Hispanic, and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court.

She said in 2001: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The remark was in the context her saying that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."

Sotomayor's comments came in a lecture, titled "A Latina Judge's Voice," that she gave in 2001 at the law school of the University of California, Berkeley.

After three days of suggesting that reporters and critics should not dwell on one sentence from a speech, the White House had a different message Friday.

"If you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what's clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge," Obama said in the broadcast interview.

Sotomayor appears headed for confirmation, needing a majority vote in a Senate, where Democrats have 59 votes. But beyond the final vote, White House officials are pushing for a smooth confirmation, not one that bogs down them or their nominee. Plus, Obama wants a strong win, not a slim one.

Obama told NBC that part of the job of a Supreme Court justice is to stand in somebody else's shoes and that Sotomayor will do that. "That breadth of experience, that knowledge of how the world works, is part of what we want for a justice who's going be effective," Obama said.

More than one line in the 2001 speech has helped drive the debate over Sotomayor's judgment.

She also said, for example: "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."

"My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas in which I am unfamiliar," she said. "I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

At the time Sotomayor gave the speech, she was in the same job she is now, a federal appeals court judge. She said then she was reminded daily that her decisions affect people and that she owes them "complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives."

"I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage," she added, "but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate."

In announcing Sotomayor as his choice, Obama said he wanted a judge who would "approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice." But he also called her life experience essential, saying she had an understanding of "how ordinary people live."

Next week, Sotomayor will begin face-to-face meetings with senators as the confirmation process begins to take shape.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why Sotomayor's Confirmation Debate Is the D.C. Equivalent of Rock of Love

Posted: May 28, 2009 06:51 PM

Listening to conservatives like Pat "She's an Affirmative Action Pick" Buchanan, Rush "He Picked the Hispanic" Limbaugh, and Tom "Latino KKK" Tancredo play the race card in attacking the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, I've been marveling at just how self-destructive they've become.

They have to know how bad this is for their party -- especially given the shifting demographics in America, and coming on the heels of the GOP xenophobia unleashed by the immigration debate last year. The Hispanic vote was a deciding factor in Obama's win (Hispanics went for Obama over McCain 67 percent to 31 percent), so the last thing the GOP needs is to be alienating Hispanic voters. BUT THEY JUST CAN'T HELP THEMSELVES!

It reminds me of Robert Downey Jr.'s quote after his umpteenth drug relapse: "It is like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I've got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of gunmetal."

The GOP attack dogs have an electoral shotgun in their mouth -- and they are addicted to the taste of gunmetal.

This week, I've heard numerous commentators describe the Supreme Court confirmation process as a "blood sport." I think of it more like D.C.'s version of reality TV: a bunch of spotlight-seeking people on their worst behavior in hopes of getting more air time. It's the political equivalent of Rock of Love.

Another thing that always gets me about the process: without fail, every presidential campaign features endless talk about how important the choice is because the next president will get to pick the next Supreme Court Justice -- "so vote with that in mind." So how come everyone then acts shocked and outraged when the guy who won the election then nominates someone who... shares his beliefs! Oh no, not that! How dare he?!

Newsflash people: that's what campaigns are about. To the victors go the spoils.

Here's another question: in 1998 Sotomayor was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. By a vote of 67-29, she was found worthy of the federal bench. What has she done in the last ten years to make the outcome any different? Joined the Kim Jong Il Fan Club? Voted for Adam Lambert instead of Kris Allen?

Here's the bottom line: Republicans know Sotomayor is going to be confirmed, so the howls of protest are all for show. It's all about fund-raising and rallying the base. But it's already so super-heated, what will be left to get worked up about by the time we get to the actual confirmation hearings?

Unless there are pubic hairs on Coke cans and secret porno rentals ("The Return of Long Dong Silver"!), it's going to be a total snooze.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter.


'You're A Disgrace' (Updated)

May 28, 2009

See full size imageSee full size image

To the annals of Mayor Bloomberg's mistreatment of the press add his testy exchange today with The Observer's Azi Paybarah, who dared to ask Hizzoner a question about term limits.

The mayor, having just finished explaining to the DN's Celeste Katz that he happens to be "very optimistic" about the city's economy and giving anecdotal examples of how things are turning around, did not take kindly to Azi's inquiry about how this might undercut Bloomberg's own rationale for extending term limits - not to mention running for re-election.

Here's the transcript:

Azi: "If the economy is turning around as you said, does that mean that the rationale for extending term limits, which is the fiscal challenge...

Bloomberg: "I don't know. Why don't you just get to serious questions here and we'll just..."

Azi: No, but the question is...

Bloomberg: "The rationale for extending term limits is the City Council voted it, and the public's going to have a chance on Nov. 3 to say what they want, and I don't think we have to keep coming back to that. When you have a serious question about the economy i'd be happy to answer it."

"Anything else? Thank you very much. Nothing else? Great. Thank you."


And then, as the mayor walks away from the podium, he looks at Azi and says, almost under his breath: "You're a disgrace." (Read his lips).

Ironically, Bloomberg once used that very word to describe...the City Council's effort to change term limits.

Actually, he said that was an "absolute disgrace." But why quibble?

Bloomberg, who happens to be a media mogul, has a long history of tense interactions with reporters. His most recent dust-up was with blogger Michael Harris, who uses a wheelchair, during Gov. David Paterson's gay marriage press conference.

There was also his rather infamous exchange with Newsday's Michael Frazier over the word "maintain," which took place almost exactly a year ago.

UPDATE: Azi referred questions to his boss, Political Editor Josh Benson, who said (via e-mail): "It was a reasonable question. We're comfortable leaving it to everyone else to judge the quality of the response."

UPDATE2: Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser e-mailed Katz to say: "The Mayor asked me to pass along his apologies to Azi for the comment after the press conference, which I did."

Meanwhile, Comptroller Bill Thompson's campaign manager, Anne Fenton, commented:

"What’s disgraceful is the Mayor’s refusal to answer the tough questions. Calling people names, having staff block cameras and bullying the press aren’t going to stop people from asking the mayor to explain his term limits bait and switch.”

Read more:


Off duty police officer, Omar Edwards, was shot and killed in a friendly fire incident in East Harlem. The incident occurred on Thursday, May 28th, 2009. Edwards was Black/Panamanian. The officer, Andrew Dunton, who shot him was White. The controversy continues to swirl. Was it racism or was it poor judgment. Listen to the post shooting emergency call:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bloomberg = Giuliani Lite

By Rafael Martínez Alequin

As many of you will recall, YFP had several verbal skirmishes with former mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He bristled at unpopular questions and chastised your humble editor for the hardball inquiries. It would appear that Rudy's "bristleitis" is contagious. Michael Bloomberg, a.k.a., "Bloombito" has followed in Rudy's footsteps. When a NY Observer (Azi Paybarah) print reporter compared the state of NYC economy to Bloomberg's eligibility for a third term, Bloombito went on the rampage.

Message to Mikey. "If you can't take the heat, get outta the kitchen."


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


By Gary Tilzer

Did you know that over the last couple of years a battle has raged between the PR people and the press to see who would control the news? You didn’t. Well, neither did most of the journalists. That’s why the PR people won.

The nation’s newspapers have already tacitly acknowledged their imminent demise, laying off reporters en
masse, eliminating sections, replacing investigative reporting with fluff, and barely coming out with new stories any more on weekends. This decay has caused devastating industry-wide shockwaves to the overall quality of journalism in this country, since the majority of television news shows now consist of anchors reading stories from the morning paper, and internet news sources like The Huffington Post and The Raw Story largely depend upon the daily papers for content.

Meanwhile, politicians, developers, and
CEOs have rubbed their hands together with nefarious glee, thrilled to finally be rid of the pesky reporters that used to keep them honest. While the wounded media has stumbled, politicians have quickly seized the opportunity to spin, scheme, and steal with impunity – and they’ve done so with greater skill than ever before.

Rather than hiring staffers to work on boring stuff like legislation, our elected officials have instead used our tax dollars to hire marketing gurus to give them fabulous, ultra-chic PR makeovers. Take State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who recently recruited Christopher
Sealey to be the State Senate’s first ever “creative director”. Sealey, who, according to a mind-numbingly vacuous profile in New York Magazine, “was shocked the government would want someone like me,” is a top-of-the-line image craftsman, who makes big money turning the stodgy into the super cool.

“You look at Obama, and he created nothing short of a brand for himself,” enthuses
Sealey. “We’re not trying to create a brand (we’re already elected), but we do want better communications techniques. I’m in charge of the design, photography, and multimedia that comes out of the Senate. We’ve brought in designers who have worked for Nike, Spike TV, and HBO; we just launched a new website; and we’re getting in touch with people on Facebook and Twitter.”

In other words, Smith, like so many other politicians now, realized that it was more important to look like he was doing a good job than to actually do one. And by populating his staff with savvy marketers, PR veterans, and former journalists with could shill stories to their much lower-paid former colleagues, he could turn, for instance, months of incompetence in Albany dealing with the
MTA fare hikes that ended in a stop-gap 25 cent increase, into a slew of glowing front page stories in the media, praising Smith for saving the City from worse financial ruin.

Smith’s shrewd PR machine is just one of the dynamos driving the media these days. Nearly every successful elected official has staffers whose main job is to cozy up to reporters and whisper sweet nothings into their columns. Indeed, so widespread and influential is this blurring of the lines between press and PR that the members of the media – particularly the young journalists who the newspapers hired for pennies on the dollar to replace their experienced predecessors – don’t even realize that there’s something very, very wrong in their newsrooms.

How did this happen?

You see, our politicians understood the press better than the press understood itself. The press, which has a bad habit of romanticizing its standing in the eyes of the American public, assumed that it would weather the slings and arrows of the changing media landscape, if for no other reason than the fact that people want to read what’s going on in the world every morning. In a way, the newspapers were right. People do want news with their coffee, but the mistake the old gray lions of the media made was to assume that the survival of the media meant that real journalism would endure too.

What our politicians grasped immediately, however, is that as long as the people gets their daily dose of sports, comics, and celebrities, they would be unfazed if the rest of the news shifted subtly over time from reportage to propaganda. That’s why, rather than killing their old nemesis, the politicians were happy to let the media chug on under their influence. Just ask Mayor
Bloomberg how helpful the press can be. As long as the media doesn’t ask any unpleasant questions, they can repeat press releases word for word as if they were legitimate stories, lionize our leaders, and discredit dissenting voices.

PR people have always viewed the press as free advertising – better than free, really, because the people who subscribe to the press don’t even know they’re being sold a product. Once upon a time, reporters fought back against PR people to protect the integrity of their papers. Nowadays, reporters are grateful to publicists for relieving them of the time-consuming work of actual investigation.

But no one is more happy than our politicians. As long as they can keep spinning worthless yarn into PR gold, their lies and incompetence will never be unraveled.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Cuomo Shuts Down NY Collection Agencies That Threatened and Intimidated

Consumers Into Paying Debts They Didn’t Owe

Sends Subpoenas to Nearly 20 Debt Collectors Statewide

NEW YORK, NY (May 27, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today
announced that his office has launched a statewide inquiry into debt
collection companies. As part of the inquiry, the Attorney General’s
Office obtained a court order against Lamont Cooper and his two debt
collection companies, Emanee Development, Inc. and Dial Tech LLC, under
which the companies will shut down and Cooper will be forced to pay
restitution to consumers statewide.

According to Cuomo’s Office, Cooper’s companies unlawfully lied to
consumers, threatened to arrest them, and intimidated them into paying
debts that they sometimes did not even owe. They would often call third
parties like neighbors or employers to further embarrass and harass
consumers. The Attorney General also announced that his Office has
subpoenaed nearly 20 other debt collectors across the state in his
ongoing investigation into various facets of the debt industry.

“At a time when New York families are already struggling with
unprecedented levels of debt, unscrupulous collection agencies add salt
to an open wound,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Using fear and
intimidation to take advantage of individuals facing debt is a shameful
and illegal scare tactic. This judgment is the first step in this
Office’s expanding investigation into debt collectors that violate the
rights of consumers and operate outside of the law.”

According to the Attorney General's Office, Cooper operated Emanee and
Dial Tech, which did business under the names of various shell companies
and fictitious law firms across the state, including: Claims Process
Services, Claims America, CMC Recovery Services, Lomax & Barnes and
Murray, Bradshaw & Associates. Collectors at the companies used illegal
and fraudulent tactics to collect debts. Emanee and Dial Tech

● Falsely accused consumers of criminal activity and told them
that they had committed criminal fraud;
● Falsely informed consumers that they would be arrested within 24
hours if they failed to pay the alleged debt;
● Threatened consumers with law suits even though the collectors
were not lawyers
● Sought collection of debts beyond the six year statute of
● Illegally discussed debts with third parties like employers and
neighbors to embarrass and harass consumers; and
● Failed to provide legally required written notices to consumers
about their rights to dispute the validity of the alleged debt.

Some consumers, intimidated by these unlawful practices, then paid
debts that they did not even owe. The tactics used by Emanee and Dial
Tech are prohibited by both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act and the New York State debt collection and consumer protection

State and federal laws stipulate that collectors cannot do the
following: pose as an attorney, threaten lawsuits or other legal action
which cannot be taken, say a consumer committed a crime or will be
arrested, talk with third parties except to get location information and
cannot engage in conduct meant to harass, oppress or abuse consumer. The
law further requires collection agencies to send a written notice within
five days of initial communication with the consumer explaining how he
or she can dispute the debt. If properly disputed, the collection agency
must stop all collecti
on attempts and send verification.

Under the terms of court order obtained by the Attorney General’s
Office, Cooper and his two companies agreed to pay restitution to
consumers who paid debts they did not owe. Additionally, Cooper and the
two corporate entities are permanently barred from engaging in the debt
collection business. Cooper and the businesses are also permanently
banned from acting as brokers that buy and then re-sell portfolios of
consumer debt to individuals who then intend to hand the debts over to
collection agencies that Cooper selects or with whom he otherwise has a
business relationship. The judgment was signed by the Hon. Diane Y.
Devlin in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Erie County.

The Attorney General’s investigation into Cooper, Emanee and Dial
Tech is part of a larger investigation into debt collection practices.
These practices, which violate both state and federal law, include a
broad array of potential wrongdoing, including: fraudulent threats of
criminal prosecution, harassing phone calls to consumers and their
families, friends and employers, bringing lawsuits against and/or
reporting consumers to credit reporting agencies without verifying that
the consumer being targeted actually owes the debt, and failing to
disclose that a caller is working for a debt collector.

Attorney General Cuomo has subpoenaed nearly twenty companies and law
firms operating as debt collectors throughout the state. The subpoenas
included requests designed to discover the policies and procedures the
debt collectors have implemented to comply with federal and state laws,
how the companies respond to complaints about their collection
practices, as well as how individual collectors are compensated.

The companies subpoenaed by Cuomo’s Office include: Cavalry Portfolio
Services, LLC; Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP; Debt Recovery Solutions LLC;
Eltman, Eltman & Cooper; Forster and Garbus; LHR, Inc; Mel S. Harris &
Associates, LLC; Med-Rev Recoveries, Inc.; Mitchell N. Kay, P.C.; NCO
Portfolio Management, Inc. and NCO Financial Systems, Inc.; North Shore
Agency, Inc.; RJM Acquisitions LLC; Rubin & Rothman LLC; and Sharinn &
Lipshie P.C.

Earlier this month, as part of his ongoing investigation into unlawful
debt practices, Attorney General Cuomo announced a lawsuit against two
debt settlement companies for fraudulent business practices and false
advertising. Cuomo filed suit against CSA-Credit Solutions of America,
Inc. (“CSA”), based in Richardson, Texas, and Nationwide Asset
Services, Inc. (“NAS”), based in Phoenix, Arizona for making
millions of dollars by selling misleading debt settlement plans that
very rarely deliver the promised benefits to consumers dealing with

Cuomo also launched a website - - that explains
consumer rights, allows victims of debt settlement companies quick
access to the Attorney General’s office to file complaints, and
outlines the stages of the Attorney General’s investigation.

This investigation and lawsuit were handled by Assistant Attorney
General Dennis Rosen and legal intern Liz Blazey, under the supervision
of Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs David Sampson and
Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Buffalo Regional Office
Russell Ippolito.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Texas Constructs U.S. Border Wall To Keep Out Unwanted Americans

Texas Wall

The Texas-U.S. border wall will protect Texans from foreigners who do not share their beliefs and customs.

WICHITA FALLS, TX—Calling it an essential step toward securing the Texas border and protecting his people's way of life, Gov. Rick Perry announced Tuesday the completion of a 1,953-mile wall designed to keep out millions of unwanted Americans.

According to Perry, the 75-foot-high barricade running along the northern boundary is the culmination of more than 160 years of escalating tensions between Texas and the United States.

Enlarge Image Texas Wall Features

Though a protective barrier has been under consideration for decades, the Texas Legislature voted unanimously to begin construction on the project immediately following the 2008 presidential election.

"As governor, it is my responsibility to do whatever's necessary to maintain the territorial integrity of Texas," Perry told reporters during a press conference held inside a sniper tower overlooking Oklahoma. "If you are a Texas citizen, you shouldn't have to worry about some American coming in here, using your goods and services, and taking away your job."

"Let the record show I have nothing personal against Americans," Perry added. "I just think they should stay in America, where they belong."

The wall is comprised of six security layers: a razor-wire fence equipped with motion sensors, surveillance cameras, and guard towers; a 70-foot-wide trench with expert marksmen stationed along its perimeter; a roadway patrolled by armed vehicles equipped with synchronized electromagnetic wave gradiometers to detect Americans attempting to tunnel their way into Texas; and a second, third, and fourth fence.

The final section of the barricade, a reinforced concrete enclosure containing the city of Austin, will be finished by August 2009.

"These Americans are destroying the moral and social fabric of our state," said Rep. Chris Turner, who added that he worries when he looks around Texas and sees people from places like Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Vermont. "The man who used to repair my truck was replaced by some mechanic who moved in here from Kansas. Lately I can't go to the store or the bank without running into all kinds of these foreigners. This wall is the only hope we have of keeping Texas safe."

"The truth is, Americans are just different from us," Turner added. "We don't even speak the same language."

According to Texas Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Tom Alford, Americans will only be permitted to cross the border if they have immediate family living in Texas, in which case they can apply for a 90-minute monitored visitation to be held inside a checkpoint detention facility.

However, Alford stressed that any American attempting to transport barbecue sauce, beef jerky, belt buckles, or longhorn cattle back to the United States will face the death penalty.

Thus far, a majority of Texas citizens support the border wall, with nearly 8 million signing up to join a coalition of Minutemen that will guard the fence.

"These good-for-nothing Americans want to come in here and wait in the same lines as me, watch the same movies, and eat at the same restaurants," El Paso resident and border patrol volunteer Larry Carlile told reporters. "Who do they think they are? I'd never dare waltz into America and act like I owned the place. That country's a godforsaken hellhole, anyway."

"Round 'em up and get 'em out," Carlile added. "Go back to Seattle or whatever you call it."

Since the wall's completion, there has been no official comment from Washington. However, sources close to President Obama said that upon being informed of Gov. Perry's announcement the commander in chief muttered, "Thank God."

GOP led by toy soldiers - Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh - insulting heroes like Powell

Mike Lupica

Monday, May 25th 2009, 4:00 AM

(Page 1 of 2)

This was at 166th St. and Boston Road in the Bronx Sunday morning, in front of the amazing old building that was still called Morris High School when Gen. Colin Powell graduated from there more than 50 years ago and began a life of service to his country.

This was an hour before Powell would appear on "Face the Nation" to discuss comments made about him by former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose most famous moment carrying a gun came when shooting a lawyer once instead of quail.

These days there are now five smaller schools on the Morris campus. Once, though, this was the first high school in the Bronx. And even with a lot of construction going on, the place is still something to see.

"Like a castle," Michael Moran, 42, from the neighborhood, said.

"Colin Powell went here," he was told.

"You think we don't know that up here?" Moran said.

A week ago Cheney - whose idea of a foxhole is Fox News - went on "Face the Nation" and said he assumed Powell had left the Republican Party after endorsing Barack Obama. Then Cheney said if he had to choose between Powell and Rush Limbaugh to lead the Republicans, he would go with Limbaugh.

But that really is the current Republican Party, isn't it? Angry old white men like Cheney and Limbaugh talking to each other. Two toy soldiers who enjoy insulting a real one like Powell. Trying to convince the country that if you don't believe in torture, you don't want to keep it safe.

Only here was Powell, who came out of Morris High to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs and secretary of state, telling the real truth about his party Sunday, and about the old men who think they speak for everyone in it.

"In every demographic ... the Republican Party is losing," Powell said.

Of course Dick Cheney wants to talk about torture now. It's all he's got. He doesn't want to talk about the soldiers he sent off to die in Iraq. He doesn't want to talk about all the wounded soldiers from that war, or the trips he didn't make to Walter Reed while he was still vice president.

He doesn't want to talk about how the Republicans lost both houses of Congress and finally the White House while he was vice president, as millions left his party on the dead run. And he certainly doesn't want to talk about what kind of country he left to President Obama, and to the rest of us.

So he talks about the potential danger of closing Guantanamo and puts it all on Obama, failing to mention that his own boss, Bush, also wanted to close the place. It is completely gutless of Cheney, and completely predictable. He continues to live in a weird parallel world, accepting no blame or responsibility for Sept. 11, but making it clear that if anything happens again it's all Obama's fault.

Today's Top Picks

Powell is better than the GOP's toy soldiers

Powell is better than the GOP's toy soldiers

Lupica: Colin Powell has still led a great American life and served his country more honorably than Dick Cheney ever will.

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Read more: "GOP led by toy soldiers - Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh - insulting heroes like Powell" -

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rudy's Heckler Speaks Out

Rudy Giuliani's Bridgehampton Heckler Speaks Out
By Foster Kamer, 12:45 PM on Sun May 24 2009,

Yesterday, former New York City mayor, failed presidential candidate, and perpetual asshole Rudy Giuliani was publicly heckled by a guy in Bridgehampton. Naturally, Rudy had the guy arrested. And now the heckler speaks to us!

As the story's been told by three papers: Rudy's walking down the street when 69 year-old Amagansett local John McCluskey (pictured, right) comes up to him and starts screaming at him. McCluskey allegedly threatened to "punch (Giuliani's) lights out" and Giuliani responded with something along the lines of "Bring it on!"

And that's about as far as it went, as neither party really "brought it." Giuliani's moll, Judi, dialed their driver and hysterically ordered an extraction operation of him, and shortly thereafter, called the 5-0 (not the sequence of events: driver, then cops). McCluskey went into the coffee shop, emptied out all the change in his pockets, and was soon arrested by the fuzz, who hit the scene minutes later. The entire thing lasted a few minutes, and really, it was just two old guys yelling at each other. McCluskey's mostly been painted as "crazed" and "a lunatic" by New York papers, though he was noted as "slim and well-dressed" by a Post quote, and looks like a dead-ringer for John Larroquette, to us. McCluskey took the initiative to get ahead of the press cycle, and emailed us this morning. The semi-press-releasey, [sic]-heavy email from him:

Dear Editor,

I am the alleged crazed John W. McCluskey who "tried to attack" sweet Rudy Gulianno "out for a stroll" in Bridgehampton. The fact is that while crossing the street I simply informed Rudy of my contempt for his sleazy bullying tactics for most of his prosecutorial life. I pointed out he would gladly prosecute and persecute the innocent as well as the guilty if it gained him publicity.

He became irate and angry and threatened to beat me up for daring to express my opinion. He flew into a rage in the middle of the street using the foulest of language and threatened to kick my ass.His wife tried to calm him down but he continued his ranting's. Of course he proved my point by having me arrested for speaking irreverently to his royal nothingness. He's a true egomaniac and a bully who can hand it out but can't take.

I'm a publisher and documentary film maker of good reputation, never having been arrested before.("When the Goddess Ruled the Earth" and "Zeus Almighty") which is in the process of release. Rudy in the 80's harassed me and my company Arden Communications on phoney allegations of wrong doing regarding tax shelters as he did to thousands of others. In any case, I just had surgery on my knee and wouldn't have been foolish enough to engage Rudy in fisticuffs, but looking at the shape of him would preclude any idea of hitting the poor man, he's truly pathetic looking.

Aside for all of that he probably knows I am working on a documentary on 911 which includes his ineptitude and mishandling of certain events leading up to 911 and he thought this would be a good opportunity to discredit me. I emptied my pockets trying to come up with enough change for coffee at the Golden Pear which is where I was going when I met Rudy.

John W. McCluskey
Arden Films

McCluskey also told Newsday that he is "not a respecter of [Giuliani], and..told him essentially that he would prosecute and persecute a cheese sandwich if he got the opportunity." Now, we doubt McCluskey actually said that, but if he did: hilarity, and also, kinda true (though the Gouda RICO Trials would be a great beat to cover). Giuliani's spokesperson - which, amazingly, he still has - noted that the mayor "handled himself well and was calm considering the situation."

It's not really that crazy to want to scream at Rudy Giuliani. He just did it, which, yeah: kinda makes him crazy, but kind of not! My favorite part of this McCluskey's email is that he tries to explain the change-emptying after he plugs his movie. A flack, and he pays for his coffee with change: a true New York hero, no doubt.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Taking the reigns as Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr. pledges focus on economic woes

Friday, May 22nd 2009, 4:00 AM

Lombard for News: Ruben Diaz Jr. swears in as Bronx borough president today at Lehman College.

Hard hit by a recession that has pushed Bronx jobless numbers into the double digits and painful budget cuts to city services and his own staff, Ruben Diaz Jr. was formally sworn in Thursday as 13th Bronx borough president.

In an inaugural speech at Lehman College, Diaz, 36, pledged to "work tirelessly and without compromise ... for our seniors, our children and our hardworking families."

Gov. Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and other elected state and city officials were on hand to extend their well-wishes.

Addressing a 10.5% local unemployment rate - the highest in the city - Diaz told the audience the most important goal on his agenda would be economic development - "and we will tackle the issue head-on."

In particular, he cited developing training programs for "green" jobs - "building green roofs, retrofitting boilers and making our existing building stock more energy-efficient."

He also cited the continuing need for improving local schools, including partnering "with community and faith-based organizations to develop after-school and arts programs in every neighborhood."

With health care the borough's single largest employer, Diaz said he would encourage the growth of new medical fields, such as bio-pharmaceuticals.

Proclaiming a theme of "One Bronx," the new borough president said he also will charge local business improvement groups with developing a strategic plan to "ensure the strength of all our business districts."

Diaz said that he will reach out to citywide leaders on issues "from business and labor to education and the environment."

"Today, I extend my hand to the mayor, and let him know that when we agree on policy, I will stand up and proudly support him. But when we disagree, I will be his fiercest critic."

Relationships between recent borough presidents and mayors have been mixed.

Diaz served 13 years representing Soundview and Hunts Point in the state Assembly. He and his father, state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister, have been at odds over the issues of gay marriage and abortion.

On the political front, he helped topple Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Jose Rivera last year. He and the party leadership managed to put him on the ballot in the April 21 special election to fill the remaining eight months left in Adolfo Carrión's term. Carrión stepped down to head the White House office on urban policy.

Diaz is expected to coast to victory in the November election for a full four-year term.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are Rudy/Judy On the Rocks

Have Rudy and Judi Split? (Update: He Says No)
By John Cook, 4:48 PM on Mon Mar 23 2009 (

Once ubiquitous on the campaign trail and the New York social circuit, Rudy and Judith Giuliani have been noticeably absent as of late, sending reporters across town chasing a rumor that the two have separated.

We called a source close to Giuliani, who adamantly insisted that there is nothing wrong in Giulianiland, but we also know that there are news outlets sniffing around as we write. It could just be smoke, but then again Rudy's batting one for three so far in successful marriages, so it's not crazy to wonder.

Update: According to an adviser to Giuliani, the couple have been on a trip to California since Saturday and she'll be attending the event in L.A. mentioned below. As for why they've been missing from New York, the adviser says they spent a couple weeks in Hawaii while he made money giving motivational speeches. Nice work if you can get it.

Before the election, the couple were regulars on the campaign trail. And they used to be spotted on the town regularly in New York Post's Page Six, but the gossip column has only mentioned them twice this year, both times in Florida. The most recent photo of Judith that we could find was a Patrick McMullan photo from a New York charity event last December.

Of course, in addition to their New York home, the Giulianis own a house in the Hamptons as well as one in Palm Beach, which they purchased for Judith's parents. Late last year, they sold her parents home in her hometown of Hazleton, Pa.

We called the Palm Beach house and asked for Judith, to see if she's been spending time down there. A woman answered, said "I'm sorry," and hung up.

Rudy, though, has been keeping himself in the limelight lately —he was on Sean Hannity's show on Friday, and hosted a party in Connecticut earlier this month, sans Judi.

He's supposed to be speaking tonight in Los Angeles, too—let us know if he brings the wife along.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No Free Press in Guatemala

YFP has always supported freedom of speech. Sometimes, we do not agree with the politics, but nevertheless we support the right to speak. Apparently, the Guatemalan government does not share our opinion. Shortly after this video tape was recorded, the subject was assassinated.

The Air in Spain is Laced With Cocaine

Where's My Passport?

The Air in Spain is Laced With Cocaine

A study commissioned by the Spanish government to monitor that country's air quality has reported what most European travelers already knew: Their entire country is just one enormous coke den. Like, you can breathe it!

Reports MSNBC:

A new study has found the air in Madrid and Barcelona is laced with at least five drugs - most prominently cocaine.

The Superior Council of Scientific Investigations, a government institute, said on its Web site Thursday that in addition to cocaine, they found trace amounts of amphetamines, opiates, cannabinoids and lysergic acid - a relative of LSD - in two air-quality control stations, one in each city.

The study also revealed that levels of narcotics in the Spanish air seemed to increase on the weekends and near college campuses. Shocking! Further, it found that at peak times, such as those infamous Spanish weekends (Anyone ever been to Ibiza? YEEHAW!), cocaine concentrations in the air reached levels of 850 picograms per cubic air meter. What's a picogram? Beats the shit out of me! But Rome only registered 100 picograms of cocaine per cubic air meter in a 2007 study.

Reading this reminded me of a girl I dated about four years ago who went to live in Madrid for a year for a graduate program. The girl who left the U.S. to study in Spain was fun, she liked to drink a bit, but she was, by all accounts, quite normal as a partier for someone living in New York. But the girl who came back to the country a year later had transformed into a damn aardvark for cocaine! Now it's all beginning to make sense!

Spanish Study Shows Cocaine in the Air in Madrid and Barcelona [MSNBC]