Friday, June 29, 2012

After Rangel Victory, Uncounted Votes Prompt Questions

As of Thursday night, results from 32 of the district’s 506 precincts still had not been made public, for reasons that the city’s Board of Elections did not make clear.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Liked · 32 minutes ago

"Here's the crazy part: this bill is dead in New York, but in New Jersey the State Assembly voted Monday to decriminalize 15 grams of pot. But their governor doesn't want to do it!"


Roberts Part of Majority Affirming Mandate

Victory for Obama, but Ruling Limits Medicaid Provision

The Supreme Court on Thursday largely let stand President Obama’s health care overhaul, in a striking victory for the president and Congressional Democrats, with the chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., affirming the central legislative pillar of Mr. Obama’s term.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Albany Republicans say Mayor Bloomberg driving them crazy with 'do-or-die' crusades  

GOPer complains: “It’s always, ‘This is so important to me. It’s personal to me.’ It’s almost like it’s about him and not the people”

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A Republican groused about behind-the-scenes pressure from Mayor Bloomberg to get his favorite bills passed. 'Everything with him is do-or-die,' the senator said. 'Gay marriage was do-or-die to him. Last In First Out was do-or-die. Teacher evaluations were do-or-die.'

ALBANY — Mayor Bloomberg is their biggest donor, but state Senate Republicans may have finally had enough of their Daddy Warbucks.
GOPers were furious over what they viewed as heavy-handed lobbying by Bloomberg and his team as they tried last week to kill the governor’s union-favored compromise bill to limit the public release of teacher evaluations, insiders say.
“We’re sick of him,” one exasperated Republican senator groused to an insider, using a four-letter word to refer to the mayor.
A high-level senator didn’t deny growing GOP anger toward the billionaire mayor.
“It got a little aggravating,” the senator said. “The mayor made a lot of nasty calls.”
The dismayed Republican said Bloomberg — who has given $2.25 million to the Senate GOP and its candidates since 2002 — is turning even his supporters off with his behind-the-scenes maneuvers.
“Everything with him is do-or-die,” the senator said. “Gay marriage was do-or-die to him. Last In First Out was do-or-die. Teacher evaluations were do-or-die.”
“It’s always, ‘This is so important to me. It’s personal to me.’ It’s almost like it’s about him and not the people.”
Bloomberg and his former Albany lobbyist, Micah Lasher, aggressively worked the phones before last Thursday’s vote, while top aide Howard Wolfson was dispatched to the Capitol to try and kill the bill — which released scores without names, giving both only to parents. The mayor wanted full public disclosure of each teacher’s name and score.
Bloomberg has long angered state legislative Democrats with what they see as an imperial, arrogant manner that reveals a disdain for having to come hat-in-hand to a body he does not respect.
“The Bloomberg people have never really got the knack of lobbying in Albany,” a source close to the GOP said. “If you throw a hissy fit, it makes (legislative leaders) and the governor less inclined to do something for you.”
The high-level GOP senator added: “We’ve had a good relationship with the mayor. He’s got a year left and I’m sure there’s things we’ll work together on. But he has to understand our conference only has a couple of members from the city of New York.”
“I don’t represent New York City,” the senator added. “I don’t think they always realize that. The teacher evaluation vote was a good vote for me in my district.”
Sen. Martin Golden, one of two Republican senators representing the city, downplayed the tensions as typical for the end of a legislative session. He said he doesn’t expect them to linger.
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Read more:
Rangel Fends Off Challengers to Win Primary
Representative Charles B. Rangel’s victory capped a gripping campaign and preserved a career that had been threatened by ethics troubles and changing demographics.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

City Hall Budget Deal, for Now, Includes Few Layoffs and No Tax Increases

The budget for the coming fiscal year, on which Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council reached agreement Monday, relies on several uncertain assumptions.

As Bloomberg’s Third Term Winds Down, Unusually Loyal Aides Begin to Eye Exits

Even three-term tenures must come to a close, and City Hall is now starting to experience a phenomenon rarely seen in the loyal pastures of Bloombergland: the exodus.

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25th, 2012

Dead New York Times Reporter Anthony Shadid Allegedly Told His Wife: "The Times Killed Me"

By John Cook
Dead New York Times Reporter Anthony Shadid Allegedly Told His Wife: Ed Shadid, the cousin of dead New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, caused a stir over the weekend when he claimed in a speech that Anthony pre-emptively blamed the Times for his death in Syria, telling his wife: "If anything happens to me, I want the world to know that the New York Times killed me." In an interview with Gawker, the surviving Shadid confirms the account and says the Times knew a trip to Syria was too dangerous, but sent him anyway.
In his speech at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's convention on Saturday, which was initially reported on Twitter and later by Politico, Shadid said that his cousin didn't want to go on the reporting trip to war-torn Syria that led to his death, reportedly from an asthma attack, in February. On the night before he left for Syria, Ed said, Anthony was "screaming and slamming on the phone in discussions with his editors." In his last telephone call with his wife, Ed says, Anthony gave his "haunting last directive that if anything happens to me I want the world to know the New York Times killed me."
Update: Anthony Shadid's widow Nada Bakri (herself a Times staffer) has issued a statement via Twitter.
I do not approve of and will not be a part of any public discussion of Anthony's passing. It does nothing but sadden Anthony's children to have to endure repeated public discussion of the circumstances of their father's death.
In an interview, Ed Shadid—an Oklahoma City physician and city councilman—told Gawker that his cousin didn't want to go to Syria in February, didn't feel like he had the support of his editors, and had been previously warned off a Syria trip by a Times security consultant.
"Did he want to go at that time?" Shadid said. "Did he feel like he had the logistical support necessary? The answer is no." According to Ed, a Times security consultant reviewed a plan to infiltrate Anthony and his photographer Tyler Hicks across the border between Turkey and Syria in December 2011, but rejected it as too dangerous. "There was a security advisor who said, in no uncertain terms, 'You are forbidden to enter Syria,'" Ed says. "So Anthony wrote an email to Tyler Hicks and says, 'Hey man, it's off. We're not allowed to go.'" But roughly six weeks later, Ed says, Anthony's editors reversed course and asked him to go anyway.
"The situation was worse on the ground than it had been in December," Ed says. "The only thing that had changed was that CNN had gained access to [the rebel stronghold] Idlid. My understanding is that CNN gaining access bothered his editors."
The night before Anthony left his home in Beirut for Turkey to begin the journey into Syria, Ed says, he was overheard on the phone with his editors "screaming at them and saying, 'This is horseshit,' and slamming down the phone." He doesn't know the specifics of what the arguments were about, but claims that Anthony felt he wasn't supported by the Times. He asked for camping equipment to bring along on the journey through the mountainous border, Ed says, but his editors said no. When the 43-year-old reporter complained about the physical demands of the journey, Ed says, Times foreign editor Joseph Kahn responded, "It sounds like you're going to get a lot of exercise on this assignment."
In a statement, the Times said that it "respectfully disagrees with Ed Shadid's version of the facts" and that the paper "does not pressure reporters to go into combat zones. Anthony was an experienced, motivated correspondent. He decided whether, how and when to enter Syria, and was told by his editors, including on the day of the trip, that he should not make the trip if he felt it was not advisable for any reason." Asked repeatedly whether a security consultant had rejected the Syria trip in December, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy declined to comment.
Whether or not Anthony—a lifelong smoker—wanted to go to Syria, his cousin says, he was in no shape to be there. "When I saw Anthony in December, he wheezing," he says. "But the New York Times had never asked him to take a physical. If you are going to send someone across mountainous terrain with gun smugglers who could—and did—abandon the journalists, shouldn't you have a sense of whether they were physically capable? I don't think a physician would have signed off on him travelling this arduous terrain in the cold."
Contrary to a report from one Twitter correspondent who heard Ed's speech, Shadid's family is not pursuing legal action against the Times, even though he says he has "audiotapes and email evidence" to back up his claims. All he wants, he says, is to start a conversation about steps that the Times and other papers can take to better protect the safety of its correspondents. "How much would it cost to do an annual physical exam?" he says. "Or mandate basic medical training? These are not expensive, complicated things." (According to Ed, Anthony's companion Hicks improperly performed CPR on the stricken reporter.)
Ed had previously spoken at several memorial events for his cousin, each time raising questions about whether the Times and other papers can do more to ensure the safety of their correspondents.
"While the specifics of this case are important," Ed says, "the bigger issue is what commonsense reforms can we put in place to protect journalists, at all newspapers."
He's also concerned that the official narrative of Anthony's death—he died of an asthma attack exarcebated by the presence of horses—doesn't wash. The emphasis on asthma comes from Hicks, who wrote that Anthony sustained increasingly severe allergic reactions to the horses they travelled with. But according to Ed, Anthony took has young daughter to horseriding lessons once a week without any adverse reactions. "They put out a story that Anthony Shadid died from asthma—according to who? Dr. Tyler Hicks?" Ed says Hicks' account of Anthony's final moments—he "stopped and leaned against a large boulder [and] collapsed onto the ground...already unconscious and [not] breathing"—is much more consistent with a heart attack than an asthma attack. He also says an autopsy was performed on Anthony's body in Turkey, and wonders why he hasn't seen the results. "We don't have them," he says.
Kahn did not return a phone call. Anthony Shadid's widow, Nada Bakri, did not respond to an email. Asked if Bakri had been consulted prior to his speech Saturday, or if she agreed with Ed's assessment of Anthony's state of mind before leaving for Syria, Ed said, "No comment. I won't answer that."
[Image via AP]

For Candidates in Primary, a Frenzied Day of Campaigning as Voting Nears

Politicians used rallies, last-minute phone calls and even prayer to ensure that their supporters knew the election was on Tuesday.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

When challenged about an untruthful statement, Romney's tactic is to deny he said it - lie trumping lie, writes Michael Cohen. (photo: YouTube/
When challenged about an untruthful statement, Romney's tactic is to deny he said it - lie trumping lie, writes Michael Cohen. (photo: YouTube/

Romney's Bid to Become Liar-in-Chief

By Michael Cohen, Guardian UK
22 June 12

our years ago, when I was writing about the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote with dismay and surprise at the spate of falsehoods coming out of John McCain's campaign for president. McCain had falsely accused his opponent Barack Obama of supporting "comprehensive sex education" for children, and of wanting to raise taxes on the middle class, while his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, took credit for opposing the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which she had actually supported.
At the time, such false and misleading claims from a presidential candidate seemed shocking: they crossed an unstated line in American politics – going from the usual garden-variety campaign exaggeration to wilful lying.
Ah, those were the days … after watching Mitt Romney run for president the past few months, he makes John McCain look like George Washington (of "I Can't Tell A Lie" fame).
Granted, presidential candidates are no strangers to disingenuous or overstated claims; it's pretty much endemic to the business. But Romney is doing something very different and far more pernicious. Quite simply, the United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.
Now, in general, those of us in the pundit class are really not supposed to accuse politicians of lying – they mislead, they embellish, they mischaracterize, etc. Indeed, there is natural tendency for nominally objective reporters, in particular, to stay away from loaded terms such as lying. Which is precisely why Romney's repeated lies are so effective. In fact, lying is really the only appropriate word to use here, because, well, Romney lies a lot. But that's a criticism you're only likely to hear from partisans.
My personal favorite in Romney's cavalcade of untruths is his repeated assertion that President Obama has apologized for America. In his book, appropriately titled "No Apologies", Romney argues the following:
"Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined. It is his way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable."
Nothing about this sentence is true.
President Obama never went around the world and apologized for America – and yet, even after multiple news organizations have pointed out this is a "pants on fire" lie, Romney keeps making it. Indeed, the "Obama apology tour", along with the president bowing down to the King of Saudi Arabia, are practically the lodestars of the GOP's criticism of Obama's foreign policy performance (the Saudi thing isn't true either).
But foreign policy is a relatively light area of mistruth for the GOP standard-bearer. The economy is really where the truth takes its greatest vacation in Romney world. First, there is Romney's claim that the 2009 stimulus passed by Congress and signed by President Obama "didn't work". According to Romney, "that stimulus didn't put more private-sector people to work." While one can quibble over whether the stimulus went far enough, the idea that it didn't create private-sector jobs has no relationship to reality. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus bill created more than 3m jobs – a view shared by 80% of economists polled by the Chicago Booth School of Business (only 4% disagree).
Romney also likes to argue that the stimulus didn't help private-sector job growth, but rather helped preserve government jobs. In fact, the Obama years have been witness to massive cuts in government employment. While the private sector is not necessarily "doing fine", as Obama said in a recent White House press conference, it's doing a heck of a lot better than the public sector.
And the list goes on. Romney has accused Obama of raising taxes – in reality, they've gone down under his presidency, and largely because of that stimulus bill that Romney loves to criticize. He's accused the president of doubling the deficit. In fact, it's actually gone down on Obama's watch.
Romney took credit for the success of the auto bailout – even though he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt". He's said repeatedly that businesses in America see Obama as the "enemy", and that under his presidency "free enterprise" and economic freedom" are at risk of disappearing. In reality, since taking office, corporate profits, industrial production and the stock market are up, while corporate bankruptcies have actually decreased.
Then, there is the recent Romney nugget that the Obama administration passed Obamacare with the full knowledge that it "would slow down the economic recovery in this country" and that the White House "knew that before they passed it". It's an argument so clearly spun from whole cloth that according to Jonathan Chait, the acerbic political columnist for New York Magazine, Romney is "Just Making Stuff Up Now".
Also of Obamacare, Romney has said that it will lead to the government taking over 50% of the economy (not true) – its true cost can't be computed (that's why we have a Congressional Budget Office in the United States); that it will create to "a massive European-style entitlement" (many liberals wish this were true, but alas, it is not); and that it will lead to a government-run healthcare system (a lie so pervasive that it's practically become shorthand for Republicans – yet it too, like the infamous made-up death panels of the health care debate, is simply not accurate).
The lying from the Romney campaign is so out-of-control that Steve Benen, a blogger and producer for the Rachel Maddow show compiles a weekly list of "Mitt's Mendacity" that is chockfull of new untruths. Benen appears unlikely to run out of material any time soon, particularly since Romney persists in repeating the same lies over and over, even after they've been debunked.
This is perhaps the most interesting and disturbing element of Romney's tireless obfuscation: that even when corrected, it has little impact on the presumptive GOP nominee's behavior. This is happening at a time when fact-checking operations in major media outlets have increased significantly, yet that appears to have no effect on the Romney campaign.
What is the proper response when, even after it's pointed out that the candidate is not telling the truth, he keeps doing it? Romney actually has a telling rejoinder for this. When a reporter challenged his oft-stated assertion that President Obama had made the economy worse (factually, not correct), he denied ever saying it in the first place. It's a lie on top of a lie.
Now, it's certainly true that on the campaign trail, facts can be stretched in many different directions – and both parties, including President Obama, frequently make arguments that are misleading, lacking in context or simply false. But it is virtually unheard of for a politician to lie with such reckless abandon and appear completely unconcerned about getting caught.
Back in the old days (that is, pre-2008) it would have been considered unimaginable that a politician would lie as brazenly as Romney does – for fear of embarrassment or greater scrutiny. When Joe Biden was accused of plagiarizing British Labor Leader Neil Kinnock's speeches in 1988, it derailed his presidential aspirations. When Al Gore was accused of exaggerating his role in "inventing the internet" (which, actually, was sort of true), it became a frequent attack line that hamstrung his credibility. Romney has done far worse than either of these candidates – yet it's hard to discern the negative impact on his candidacy.
Romney has figured out a loophole – one can lie over and over, and those lies quickly become part of the political narrative, practically immune to "fact-checking". Ironically, the more Romney lies, the harder it then becomes to correct the record. Even if an enterprising reporter can knock down two or three falsehoods, there are still so many more that slip past.
It's reminiscent of the old line that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. In Romney's case, his lies are regularly corrected by media sources, but usually, in some antiseptic fact-checking article, or by Democratic/liberal voices who can be dismissed for their "partisan bent". Meanwhile, splashed across the front page of newspapers is Romney saying "Obamacare will lead to a government take-over of healthcare"; "Obama went on an apology tour"; or "the stimulus didn't create any jobs". Because, after all, it's what the candidate said and reporters dutifully must transcribe it.
Pointing out that Romney is consistently not telling the truth thus risks simply falling into the category of the usual "he-said, she-said" of American politics. For cynical reporters, the behavior is inevitably seen to be the way the political game is now played. Rather than being viewed and ultimately exposed as examples of a pervasive pattern of falsehoods, Romney's statements embed themselves in the normalized political narrative – along with aggrieved Democrats complaining that Romney isn't telling the truth. Meanwhile, the lie sticks in the minds of voters.
As MSNBC's Steve Benen told me:
"Romney gets away with it because he and his team realize contemporary political journalism isn't equipped to deal with a candidate who lies this much, about so many topics, so often."
Romney is charting new and untraveled waters in American politics. In the process, he is cynically eroding the fragile sense of trust that exists between voters and politicians. It's almost enough to make one pine for the days when Sarah Palin lied about "the Bridge to Nowhere".

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Florida, Obama Assails Republicans Over Immigration Policy

In what amounted to the general election campaign's first debate on immigration, President Obama told those attending the NALEO conference that they should not trust Mitt Romney's shifting rhetoric.
Mitt Romney delivered a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Florida on Thursday.

Romney Exhibits a Change in Tone on Immigration

Mitt Romney struck a more conciliatory tone toward illegal immigrants than he has in the past, but backed only limited steps to address the concerns of many Hispanic voters.

Cuomo expected to endorse Rangel today

Last Updated: 12:32 PM, June 22, 2012
Posted: 12:32 PM, June 22, 2012

Gov. Cuomo is expected today to wade into fiercely contested Democratic congressional primaries -- endorsing the re-election of ethically challenged Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel over state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, and backing state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries over firebrand Councilman Charles Barron for a open Brooklyn House seat, sources said.
Cuomo also opposed Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez, by endorsing the re-election of Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velasquez over Lopez-backed challenger Erik Dilan. President Obama has also backed Velasquez.
The governor is expected to state his preferences later this afternoon.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Rangel, 82, is running for a 22nd term in a northern Manhattan-Bronx district whose population is now majority Latino. Much of the establishment has backed Rangel, despite his humiliating censure by the House of Representatives in 2010 for 11 ethics violations.
Jefferies is in a fierce battle with Barron, a confrontational politician who has drawn fire for his criticism of Israel and support for dictators like the late Mohammar Khadafi.

Rangel Seeks to Minimize Any Concern About Age

The issues of Representative Charles B. Rangel’s age and long tenure have hovered over his re-election bid.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Biggest Rival for a Congresswoman From Brooklyn Isn’t Even on the Ballot

Nydia M. Velázquez’s best-known challenger for her seat is Councilman Erik M. Dilan, but she acts as though her biggest rival is Vito J. Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s leader.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two more for Congress

Last Updated: 12:11 AM, June 20, 2012
Posted: June 20, 2012

Voters in eastern and central Queens are picking a successor to retiring Rep. Gary Ackerman, with the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary an overwhelming favorite to win in November.
Four candidates are vying for the 6th District nod: We recommend a vote for Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
Sure, the three main contenders are on pretty much the same liberal page when it comes to the issues. And all enjoy some union support, though the UFT’s backing for Meng is cause for some concern.
But her main opponent, Assemblyman Rory Lancman, has a well-earned anti-business reputation, and there already are enough folks of that ilk in Washington.
Helayne Seidman
Nydia Velazquez
If elected, Meng would be New York’s first-ever Asian-American member of Congress — perhaps appropriate, given that the new district is roughly 40 percent Asian.
None of the candidates has a particularly long legislative record, but Meng strikes us as a bridge-builder who understands the need to protect New York’s economy.
In the 7th CD, which includes parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, Rep. Nydia Velazquez is facing her first serious primary challenge after 20 years in Congress.
The reason? She refuses to kowtow to Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, who is so offended that he’s running one of his sock puppets, City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, against her.
Dilan claims Velazquez is anti-Israel. She’s responded with endorsements from such stalwart supporters of Israel as Ed Koch, Sheldon Silver and Jerrold Nadler.
Frankly, we’d be hard pressed to come up with even a scanty list of issues on which Velazquez agrees with us. But anyone who gives Vito Lopez that much agita can’t be all bad. The Post endorses Rep. Velazquez.

Read more:
Velazquez with Nadler, Schumer and Silver. 
Reid Pillifant
12:10 pm Jun. 19, 2012

Her meeting with Brooklyn's Democratic boss Vito Lopez had been a friendly one, as far as Nydia Velazquez knew.
It was 1992, the year she was first elected to Congress. Velazquez and Dennis Rivera, then the president of the health care workers union, 1199 SEIU, met with Lopez at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan to coordinate his support for her campaign.
Lopez, a veteran assemblyman, wouldn't become Brooklyn Democratic Party chair until 2005, following the conviction of his predecessor for soliciting illegal campaign contributions. But he had already emerged as an influential power broker.
"We planned to hold a press conference for the following week," Velazquez said, in an interview this week.
Then Lopez stopped returning Rivera's calls, according to Velazquez.
"And then all of a sudden Vito produced another candidate," she said, over breakfast at the Park Place Restaurant on Sunday morning. "So right from the start, Vito has been dishonest in his dealing with me."
She took a sip from a cup of cappuccino and tried to wave away the subject.
"I don't even want to revisit that," she said.
Lately, she hasn't had a choice.
After leaving her unchallenged over the years in a district taking in parts of Brooklyn and Queens and the Lower East Side, Lopez has once again produced a candidate to run against Velazquez, this time in the form of term-limited councilman Erik Martin Dilan.
That makes Velazquez the highest-ranking target in this cycle of a broad offensive by the county leader, who is trying to reassert his power after weathering multiple federal and city investigations, and to defeat, or at least diminish, a dissident Brooklyn Democratic faction that has sprouted up to oppose him.
Lopez has already rid the borough of his other longtime enemy in the congressional delegation, Ed Towns, who announced in April that he would retire in the face of a challenge from the upstart assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who happens to enjoy the strong backing of Lopez. But Towns was an island of incumbency, never much concerned with advancing a movement beyond his son and daughter.
Velazquez, on the other hand, has been a mentor to a younger generation of Brooklyn-based liberals who are openly challenging Lopez's power.
Last summer, she backed Jesus Gonzalez, a challenger on the Working Families line, in a race for an open Assembly seat that was also a proxy battle among the borough's competing factions, and she helped foster the movement against Lopez in its earliest days.
In January of 2010, she invited Lincoln Restler, who was then leading a reform club called the New Kings Democrats, to be her guest at the State of the Union.
"She supported a group of young people who are generally new to local politics and offered her expertise and credibility," said Restler, who generated an impressive amount of laudatory (and anti-Vito) press in a successful district-leader race later that year. "And that's been invaluable to our efforts."
Not coincidentally, Restler is also being targeted by Lopez this cycle. To run against Restler, who won by just 121 votes in 2010, Lopez recruited the well-known chairman of the local community board, Chris Olechowski, who will presumably be an attractive candidate in a district with a substantial Polish population.
(Lopez, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article, recently described Restler's connection to Velazquez as being "up her butt, and that's fine.")
Lopez's strategy isn't hard to follow.
A big victory for Olechowski could, in theory at least, dissuade Restler from running for City Council next year against Lopez's former chief of staff, Steve Levin.
But Lopez is also getting involved in contests where the county organization is not widely expected to win, including a second challenge to district leader Jo Anne Simon, who ran against Levin in 2009 (with the New York Times' blessing) and is considering a rematch in 2013.
In 2010, Lopez ran the 22-year-old daughter of a judge and ally against Simon, in what she says was the first primary challenge to a female district leader since 1984.
Simon won with 63 percent of the vote.
This time, the challenger is Debra Scotto, the daughter of the unofficial mayor of Carroll Gardens, Buddy Scotto, whose power in the area appears to be on the wane. (Scotto aggressively opposed declaring the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, which Velazquez counts as one of her signature achievements.)
But for Lopez, individual victories might not be the point.
The county machinery can churn money and votes with relative ease, manufacturing challengers that must be taken seriously, and forcing opponents to spend time and money ensuring their own safety, rather than coalescing around challengers for other seats, or even Lopez himself.
"Every time these kinds of things happen, he's sending a signal to people that if they act differently than he would like, that they will be in his crosshairs," said Simon. "It's payback, it's a message to other people."
Where Lopez's predecessor, Clarence Norman, preferred to avoid messy intra-party brawls where he could, Lopez welcomes the combat.
"That's just the way he's wired," said one consultant I talked to. "It's nothing new."
"Oh no, come on, it surprised me that it took this long," Velazquez said on Sunday.
I asked why she thought this was happening now.
"I think that Vito is worrying, and he sees this as a real opportunity to weaken me, given the fact that there is redistricting," she said.
During the recently completed redrawing of the congressional lines, Velazquez and her supporters urged the three-judge panel that was overseeing the process not to remove the reform-minded communities in north Brooklyn from her sprawling, heavily Latino district, which stretches from north and eastern Brooklyn through Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and down to Greenwood Cemetery and Sunset Park. But the court removed them anyway, adding more of the borough's brownstone belt and extending the district further east into Ozone Park.
Lopez and Dilan have cast Velazquez as an anti-Zionist, overly partisan puppet of Wall Street who hasn't been an active enough legislator, citing as proof a Daily News story that reported the congresswoman didn't so much as sponsor a bill or resolution in the first half of 2011.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

For a Rangel Challenger, Voters’ Opinions Are the Only Ones That Matter

Clyde Williams is emphasizing his experience and shrugging off talk of a two-person race in the Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg yesterday imagined himself going out on the town in sexy outfits, after eyeballing these pretty protesters in yesterday’s Post.
Mayor Bloomberg yesterday imagined himself going out on the town in sexy outfits, after eyeballing these pretty protesters in yesterday’s Post.
Mayor Bloomberg took a walk on the wild side yesterday, putting himself in the heels of scantily clad ladies who resent being treated like hookers because they dress to thrill.
“If I were a young lady and dressed in a sporty way or however you want to phrase it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, . . . I would not want somebody thinking I’m a prostitute,” Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday, rising to the defense of halter tops adorning the bodies of respectable women everywhere.
Bloomberg slipped into that sensible position as a result of a story in The Post about a City Council bill that would impose heavy penalties on cabbies who knowingly transport hookers.
The report was accompanied by a photo of a dozen women representing car-service companies who were dressed to kill. The headline asked if the mayor imagined them to be prostitutes.
“I thought to myself, what can this story possibly be about?” Bloomberg recounted in wonder on his weekly radio show.
Turns out, he was quite interested in the picture and not so much in the story.
Bloomberg said he hadn’t been briefed on the bill and didn’t know if his administration would support it or not.
“Whether it’s enforceable and a good idea, I don’t know,” he added.
Twenty minutes later, following discussions that touched on the evils of oversized sodas to the perils of diluting full disclosure of teacher evaluations, Bloomberg explained:
“It [the bill] only applies to the second offense if the driver had been convicted of participating, soliciting, whatever. And he or she has got to do it knowingly.”
As a result, mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser said the administration was all aboard the measure passed by the council on Wednesday.
Taxi drivers caught transporting prostitutes could lose their license for a first offense as well as face an additional $10,000 fine the second time around.
But some women fear they won’t be able to hail a taxi because cabbies might jump to the conclusion that they’re streetwalkers based on their outfits.
In ruminating about who might be and who might not be taken for a hooker, the mayor was willing to share this advice with the young women of this fashion-crazed city.
There’s “nothing wrong” with sporty clothes as long as you know when and where to wear them.
“It’s not appropriate to go to work,” concluded Bloomberg. “But at night, or something, sure. Why not?”
And if a cabby is reluctant to pick you up, just tell him the mayor said it was OK.

Read more:

From the Magazine
The Snow Kings of Mexico
Disposable submarines, a marijuana catapult, a tunnel entrance hidden under a pool table — drug-trafficking has never been so clever, or so complicated.

Anthony D. Romero

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Today the Obama administration threw a lifeline to America's undocumented youth, announcing that it will stop deporting and give work permits to young adults who came to the U.S. as children, or DREAMers. Through well-established executive authority, the administration will temporarily spare youth educated in America's schools from expulsion from the United States.
This announcement is especially fitting today, the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Plyler v. Doe. In Plyler, the Court held that all children in America are entitled to a basic public education, regardless of immigration status. The DREAMers are Plyler's legacy--students who have worked hard to achieve their educational and career goals and become contributing members of society.
"Today, the administration has provided these young adults the opportunity to pursue the American Dream," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
The threat of deportation has haunted the lives of students like Heydi Meija, who, as reported by the Washington Post, was brought to the United States from Guatemala at age four and recently graduated with honors from Meadowbrook High School in Richmond, Virginia. Heydi had planned to go to college, until immigration officers came to her family's apartment in December, turning her senior year into a countdown to deportation. Today, the nightmare for students like Heydi has come to an end, at least for a while.
Under the new policy, DREAMers will be eligible for "deferred action" for two years (subject to renewal) if they arrived in the U.S. before age 16, are younger than 30; have been in the U.S. for at least five continuous years; graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the U.S. armed forces; and have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
This important victory is a testament to the power of the immigrant youth movement and its inspiring young leaders like recent guest-blogger Lorella Praeli of United We Dream, or Victor Palafox, an Alabama community organizer whom we recently hosted at our celebration of Plyler in Washington, D.C. The ACLU has proudly stood with the DREAMers at the national level and in states like Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Rhode Island, and celebrates their victory today.
But today's stopgap is not enough. The President cannot provide our promising undocumented youth with what they ultimately need--a path to U.S. citizenship. For a permanent solution, Congress must pass the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to our country as children and graduate from high school. For over a decade, America's business executives, military commanders, college presidents, mayors, and faith leaders have called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, yet Congressional Republicans have blocked the DREAM Act from final passage. So as we celebrate today's victory, we call on all Members of Congress to pass the DREAM Act and protect and build America's future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Espada judge promises quicker criminal tax trial

Last Updated: 6:28 PM, June 12, 2012
Posted: 6:27 PM, June 12, 2012

This ain’t Brooklyn, buster!
A testy Manhattan federal judge today smacked ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., his son and Brooklyn federal prosecutors as he vowed that their upcoming criminal tax trial be would be much quicker than their recent, related two-month embezzlement trial across the river.
“It’s not going to take seven to eight weeks to try this case,” Judge William Pauley warned the Espadas and the Brooklyn prosecutors, who were ordered to begin trying the case Nov. 5.
“I’m going to tell both Espadas right now that they better get busy retaining counsel,” Pauley brusquely said of the duo, who dropped the pricey lawyers they used in the Brooklyn trial in favor of court-appointed attorneys at their arraignment in the tax case yesterday.
“I’m not going to countenance any lengthy delay,” snapped Pauley.
At one point during the proceeding, Brooklyn prosecutor Todd Kaminsky was standing up, and Pauley asked, “Do you have something to say?”
“No,” Kaminsky replied.
“Then sit down!” Pauley barked.
After a lengthy trial in Brooklyn, Espada was convicted last month of embezzling nearly $500,000 from the taxpayer-funded Bronx healthcare non-profit he controlled by having it pay for his myriad personal expenses, which were disguised as business his expenses. Jurors could not reach a verdict on any of the counts related to his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, and some counts related to the elder Espada.
In the Manhattan case — which is being prosecuted by Brooklyn prosecutors because the case was assembled in their office — the Espadas are accused of tax crimes related to the alleged embezzlement at Soundview Health Care Network and a cleaning company controlled by the clan.

Read more:

Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer Endorsed Congressman Charles Rangel on the Democratic Primary on June 26, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

America’s Street Priest

Posted on Jun 10, 2012
Illustration by Mr. Fish

The Rev. Daniel Berrigan, undaunted at 92 and full of the fire that makes him one of this nation’s most courageous voices for justice, stands in New York City’s Zuccotti Park. He is there, along with other clergy, to ask Trinity Church, which is the third-largest landowner in Manhattan, to drop charges against Occupy activists, including retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, for occupying its empty lot on 6th Avenue and Canal Street on Dec. 17. The protesters, slated to go to court Monday, June 11, hoped to establish a new Liberty Square on the lot after being evicted by New York City police from Zuccotti in November. But Trinity had the demonstrators arrested. It chose to act like a real estate company, or the corporation it has become, rather than a church. And its steadfast refusal to drop the charges means that many of those arrested, including Packard, could spend as long as three months in jail.
“This is the only way to bring faith to the public and the public to the faith,” Berrigan said softly as we spoke before the demonstration in the park that was once the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street. “If faith does not touch the lives of others it has no point. Faith always starts with oneself. It means an overriding sense of responsibility for the universe, making sure that universe is left in good hands and the belief that things will finally turn out right if we remain faithful. But I underscore the word ‘faithful.’ This faith was embodied in the Occupy movement from the first day. The official churches remained slow. It is up to us to take the initiative and hope the churches catch up.”
There is one place, Berrigan says, where those who care about justice need to be—in the streets. The folly of electoral politics, the colossal waste of energy invested in the charade of the Wisconsin recall, which once again funneled hopes and passion back into a dead political system and a bankrupt Democratic Party, the failure by large numbers of citizens to carry out mass acts of civil disobedience, will only ensure that we remain hostages to corporate power.
Berrigan believes, as did Martin Luther King, that “the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.” And he has dedicated his life to fighting these evils. It is a life worth emulating.
Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, was ordained 70 years ago. He was a professor at Le Moyne College, Cornel University and Fordham University. His book of poems, “Time Without Number,” won the Lamont Poetry Prize. But it is as a religious radical that he gained national prominence, as well as numerous enemies within the Roman Catholic hierarchy. He and his brother Philip Berrigan, a Josephite priest and World War II combat veteran, along with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, led some of the first protests against the Vietnam War. In 1967 Philip Berrigan was arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience and was sentenced to six years in prison. Philip’s sentence spurred Daniel to greater activism. He traveled to Hanoi with the historian Howard Zinn to bring back three American prisoners of war. And then he and eight other Catholic priests concocted homemade napalm and on May 17, 1968, used it to burn 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Md., draft board.

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children,” Berrigan wrote at the time of the destruction of draft files. “How many must die before our voices are heard, how many must be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened? When, at what point, will you say no to this war?”
Berrigan was a fugitive for four months after being sentenced. He was apprehended by the FBI in the home of the writer William Stringfellow, whose decision to live and write out of Harlem in the 1950s and whose books “Dissenter in a Great Society” and “My People Is the Enemy” were instrumental in prompting me as a seminarian to live and work in Boston’s inner city, in the Roxbury neighborhood. Berrigan was sentenced to three years and released from the federal prison in Danbury, Conn., in 1972. But he did not stop. In 1980 he and Philip, along with six other protesters, illegally entered the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, Pa. They damaged nuclear warhead cones and poured blood onto documents. He was again sentenced and then paroled for time already served in prison. Philip, by the time he died in 2002, had spent more than a decade in prison for acts of civil disobedience. Philip Berrigan, Zinn said in eulogizing him, was “one of the great Americans of our time.”
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Attorney general investigates $33,000 state grant tied to City Councilman Ruben Wills' nonprofit

Eric Schneiderman files motion to compel New York 4 Life to open its books

 City Councilmember Ruben Wills.Dozens of hospital workers rally to call for an investigation of the Peninsula Hospital closure.Former NY State Senator Malcolm Smith and City councilmember Ruben Wills holding a press conference at 90 Church st. in Manhattan to call for a formal investigation into the Peninsula Hospital Center closure.

Mariela Lombard

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating a $33,000 grant linked to Councilman Ruben Wills (pictured) that has gone unaccounted for.

ALBANY — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is probing a $33,000 state grant that is unaccounted for after it was doled out to a nonprofit tied to City Councilman Ruben Wills, the Daily News has learned.

Schneiderman’s investigators, frustrated by the Queens councilman’s failure to fully comply with a subpoena, have filed a motion in Manhattan Supreme Court to compel New York 4 Life to open its books, sources told The News.

The funds were earmarked in 2008 by state Sen. Shirley Huntley, the Queens Democrat who used to employ Wills as her chief of staff, court documents show. This is the third Huntley-secured legislative grant to be investigated by Schneiderman’s office.

New York 4 Life was supposed to use the money to fund a breakfast for single mothers; a luncheon for single fathers; a campaign to fight childhood obesity, and a program to “adopt” a commercial strip.

Wills — who last year pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge in an unrelated case — has been on the nonprofit’s board since he started the group in 2006, and served as its chairman since at least 2009, court records show. The organization has no website, but in Wills’ Council biography he said the group “has helped single mothers champion critical issues such as civic literacy and financial empowerment.”

In April 2011, the state Office of Children & Family Services sent a letter to Wills seeking documentation on how the grant was spent. It never got a response, the court filing alleges. Officials then told the group to either provide an accounting of the money, or return it. It did neither. The state agency ultimately referred the matter to Schneiderman’s office.

Letters to Wills that demanded repayment plus interest went ignored, according to court papers.

Schneiderman and state Controller Thomas DiNapoli jointly issued a subpoena in February that sought testimony about, and detailed documentation of, New York 4 Life’s use of the grant, and about the group’s organization and finances, court records show.

On Feb. 23, Wills met with Schneiderman’s investigators. He brought documents that provided no accounting for the $33,000, except for one undated invoice for $980, Schneiderman’s senior counsel, Emily Bradford, contends in the court papers.

Wills, who took office in a special election in 2010, frequently skipped or canceled other meetings with both Schneiderman’s and DiNapoli’s offices. At one meeting with the attorney general’s investigators, he left midsentence during questioning, records show.

Wills’ lawyer informed Schneiderman’s office that Wills will evoke his Fifth Amendment protection against giving testimony that might incriminate himself. Schneiderman, joined by DiNapoli, filed the court motion in April.

Wills and his lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

Late last year, Wills, a Democrat, settled a 15-year-old Manhattan larceny case after he repeatedly skipped court dates, even after a judge issued a bench warrant.

He was accused of damaging walls and stealing track lights from a building owned by a client he claimed had owed him money.

A source said Huntley at this point is not a target of the Wills probe.

Huntley’s niece and one of the lawmaker's top aides were indicted last year for allegedly pocketing $30,000 in state money that was intended for Parent Workshop Inc., a nonprofit Huntley founded before she joined the Legislature.

Schneiderman’s office, which conducted that investigation, is also probing another nonprofit, The Parent Information Network; it received thousands from the state since Huntley took office. The group shared Huntley’s home address, and her daughter is its founder and president.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Charlie Crist Gay? Former Governor Allegedly Paid Men To Cover Up Affairs

Posted: Updated: 06/08/2012 11:37 pm
Charlie Crist Gay
Allegations surfaced on Friday that former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist paid two men to conceal gay affairs.
The charges were revealed in documents obtained by local station WTSP, relating to the investigation of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer.
[Warning: graphic language below]
Controversy swirling around the connection between Greer and Crist is nothing new. During his Republican-turned-independent Senate campaign in 2010, Crist vehemently denied he had any knowledge of Greer's alleged scheme to divert state party funds to pay for his own personal expenses. Greer attorney Damon Chase, however, said at the time that the former governor signed off on the plan.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement Investigative Report contains details on an exchange between Chase and John Morgan, whose law firm Crist works at in Florida.
Chase had contacted Morgan, as Chase believed Morgan was the attorney representing Crist, to set up a time wherein Chase could depose Crist. In essence, indicated to Morgan that if he (Chase) had to take Crist's deposition, Crist was not going to like what Chase asked as it would contain embarrassing things and would be used to impeach his testimony. When Morgan inquired what embarrassing things Chase was referring to, Chase indicated that he would be forced to impeach Crist by addressing the following issues: 1. Charlie Crist was a homosexual and had homosexual relationships with at least two men who were paid to leave the state to avoid embarrassing then Governor Crist. 2. Governor Crist kissed or attempted to kiss Greer at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Califonria, 3. Governor Crist's drunken escapades, and how Governor Crist's security detail had to cover for him 4. Governor Crist attempting to run people over while intoxicated and operating a golf cart.
Morgan allegedly told Chase that his accusations were nothing more than inflammatory remarks intended to embarrass Crist and that even if the former governor were gay, they still wouldn't relate to the charges Greer faces or constitute grounds for impeachment.
According to the documents:
Morgan stated that if Crist were homosexual why would he try to kiss Greer, specifically stating, '(Crist) would have to be a sick son of a bitch to try to kiss Porky the Pig' in reference to Greer. Additionally, Morgan sent Chase an email indicating that it was his opinion that Greer was using Chase to extort Charlie (Crist) with embarrassing questions. Morgan indicated in his email that these types of questions were the same thing as asking, 'when was the last time you fucked the neighbor's sheep' or 'are you still beating your wife.'
The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that records indicated Crist believed Greer was trying to extort him. The former state GOP chair, however, denied that was the case.
Greer is expected to face trial on July 30.
Below, a look back at gay sex scandals.

Jeff Gannon

  James Dale Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, is a conservative reporter who was given access to White House briefings from 2003 to 2005. He was accused of tossing softball questions to President Bush and then accused of involvement with gay pornography and gay prostitution.