By KATE TAYLOR
At a Bronx political club, Representative Charles B. Rangel responded sharply to a question about his ethical conduct and acknowledged that he faces a significant challenge to his re-election.
"[Bloomberg's] being a little bit hypocritical. If you're concerned about the quality of life of the citizen in this city, like don't smoke a cigarette in Central Park, then don't land a two thousand pound helicopter in front of my apartment with the choking exhaust and intolerable noise when it's closed."Snap! You gonna take that Bloomy? As Daily Intel puts it, "Louis the XVI and Julius Ceasar never had to deal with this bullshit!" Surely this Sticco guy's just never felt the sheer thrill of piloting a whirlybird, right? Maybe take him for a ride to your humble Hamptons home? Fly him to a U2 concert? Buy him and his wife their own V-22 Osprey? That will shut them up.
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Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team
May 16, 2012 at 5:00 am by TU Editorial Board
Our opinion: The poster boy for legislative corruption is likely headed to prison. Can a culture that promotes and enables such wrongdoing get any worse?
It’s creepy to remember that less than two years ago, Pedro Espada Jr. was the majority leader of the New York Senate and one of the most powerful, not to mention objectionable, people in all of state government.
It’s just as unsettling to recall the travesty that allowed him to rise so high in a corruption-plagued state Legislature for which he made embarrassment a personal art form. Such was the price of resolving first the coup and then the partisan stand-off that rendered the Senate impotent for much of the summer of 2009. Republicans and Democrats alike were complicit in Mr. Espada’s political terrorism.
He was by then in his second tenure as a senator, having previously been voted out of office, only to get elected, again, in 2008, from a Bronx district where he didn’t even live.
He immediately lusted for power as part of a group known as the “Four Amigos.” One, Hiram Monserrate, was later removed from the Senate after an assault conviction. Another, Carl Kruger, was sentenced to prison last month in a bribery and corruption scandal.
Now Mr. Espada, too, is a convicted criminal. He was found guilty Monday of stealing a half million dollars from a Bronx health care network he created and ran — with the invaluable help, that is, of government funding he was able to procure.
So add Mr. Espada’s name to a breathtakingly long list of legislators-turned-felons for whom public service was a sham. Still, there ought to be a special place for him in such ignoble company.
He may well be the most blatant example yet of the tolerance for corruption that extends from the most ordinary citizens to the most powerful lawmakers. To say good riddance to Mr. Espada is to yearn for a public awakening that will make his downfall the point at which the stain of sleaze that has blotted state government might begin to be erased.
If New York is to learn anything from this, it must begin with the realization that legislators are lousy at policing themselves. It was state and federal prosecutors who finally blew the whistle on Espada, not his accommodating colleagues.
It’s only this week, in fact, with the launch of an investigation of another powerful senator, Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, by the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, that a legislator is apparently facing such scrutiny. But even if it were to find wrongdoing in that case, JCOPE couldn’t take action against the senator. By law, that’s still up to the Legislature’s own ethics panel, which has never penalized a sitting legislator.
So in addition to a public demand that prosecutors keep their eye on law-breaking lawmakers, what else might we draw from the Espada episode? This, certainly: There needs to be a much brighter line separating the allocation of public funds for often worthwhile purposes — a health care network, in this case — and the politicians who might use that funding to promote themselves.
Listen to federal prosecutor Todd Kaminsky’s brutally honest summation of Mr. Espada’s view toward the clinics that served as his base of power: “I own Soundview. I built Soundview. I am Soundview. Who’s going to stop me?”
The law stopped Pedro Espada, finally. But not before his looting had left Soundview in shambles and the services it had provided to 25,000 people a year in doubt. And not before he joined the growing number of legislators seemingly committed to personal enrichment at public expense.
Maybe this is the point at which the cleanup really begins.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights heard today its first case involving a victim of the CIA rendition program. It heard evidence supporting Khaled El-Masri’s claim that he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment in an Afghan prison, after being wrongfully arrested by Macedonian agents and handed over to a CIA rendition team more than eight years ago.
EUROPE’S TOP HUMAN RIGHTS COURT HEARS RENDITION CASE
16 May 2012 – The European Court of Human Rights today heard its first case involving a victim of the CIA rendition program.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) heard detailed evidence supporting Khaled El-Masri’s claim that he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment in a notorious Afghan prison, after being wrongfully arrested by Macedonian agents and handed over to a CIA rendition team more than eight years ago. After four months of detention he says he was returned to Europe and dumped on an Albanian road in May 2004. Every attempt at seeking justice by El-Masri has failed until now.
El-Masri is represented in the case by a team of lawyers from the Open Society Justice Initiative. REDRESS first made written observations as a third party in the case before the ECtHR in 2011 (see here) and again this year (see here) on the rights of victims of extraordinary rendition under international law to an investigation, remedy and reparation.
REDRESS has made detailed submissions to the Court on:
In the face of repeated failures to adequately investigate such allegations across Europe – including in the UK – REDRESS’ submission shows how verification of the facts and public disclosure of the truth are themselves part of what the states involved owe victims under international law.
In support of its submission REDRESS provided the Court with an expert report (see here) by clinical psychologist Dr Mary Robertson, which discusses how the provision of a remedy, and identifying the perpetrators, can be crucial to victims’ psychological recovery.
REDRESS’ international legal officer, Sarah Fulton, said: “Providing a remedy to victims and getting to the bottom of what happened, and why, is vital because it allows injustice to be acknowledged by the wider society and helps victims to reclaim their dignity and come to terms with their suffering.”
According to Fulton: “Extraordinary rendition, and the torture and ill-treatment associated with it, destroys lives. Its victims have the right, just like any other persons whose rights have been violated, to have their allegations properly investigated. Those investigations and their findings must be as open to public scrutiny as possible, both for democratic accountability and, crucially, for the sake of the victims themselves. Leaving aside any monetary compensation, verification of the facts and public disclosure of the truth are vital parts of what the states involved owe victims under international law.”
Wednesday’s hearing was the first time that a court heard the merits of El-Masri’s complaint, even though several criminal and civil proceedings related to his case were started in the United States, Spain, Germany and Macedonia without result. His attempt to sue the CIA in the US courts was rejected in 2006 under the “state secrets” doctrine, which allowed the US Government to have the case dismissed without considering the merits on the basis that it risked revealing classified information. Efforts to encourage the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to consider the US’ application of the “states secrets” doctrine, which REDRESS also supported, have likewise not led anywhere.
To date, European states alleged to have been implicated in the extraordinary rendition programme have failed to properly address the allegations relating to their involvement or to provide a remedy to victims. REDRESS believes that this case presents the Court with an opportunity to emphasise to States the obligations that they have to both the public and to individual victims in such cases. It should also stand as a stark example to those seeking to limit even further victims’ avenues for justice, including the UK which, despite much criticism, remains committed to introducing closed procedures in all cases raising national security issues.
The Grand Chamber will now consider the case, before delivering its judgment later in the year.
REDRESS was represented in its amicus submissions by barristers Timothy Otty QC and Simon Pritchard of Blackstone Chambers.
For further information, please contact Eva Sanchis, Communications Officer, on email@example.com or +44 (0) 20 7793 1777.
Photo by Joy Garnett.