Sunday, April 28, 2013

‘House of Cards’ spoof pokes fun at Bloomberg, Weiner

  • Posted: 1:53 AM, April 28, 2013
  • Last Updated: 4:03 AM, April 28, 2013 

Kevin Spacey starred in a "House of Cards" spoof featuring Mayor Bloomberg that aired during Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner.
That Francis Underwood really has his finger on the pulse of things – even tickets to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Underwood, played by actor Kevin Spacey, is the seedy, plotting politician in Netflix’s “House of Cards.” The fictional series shows Underwood, the House Majority Whip, jockeying to become Vice President.
Now he’s onto ticket-hoarding, starring in a spoof video with dozens of other celebrities and media personalities titled “House of Nerds” that aired during Saturday’s dinner.

New York City's Mayor Bloomberg appears in the clip, which pokes fun at the politician’s extended stay in office and efforts to rid the city of large sugary drinks. The video also includes a dig at shamed politician Anthony Weiner, who’s trying to make a comeback following his … um … uncouth social media use.
“You can’t run for mayor again, Mike,” Underwood tells Bloomberg in a phone conversation. “That’ll put Anthony Weiner in a pickle, and then he’ll tweet that pickle.”
“Well, what do you suggest?” Bloomberg asks.
“President of the Correspondents’ Association.”
“Doesn’t that position only last for a year?”
“Well, since when have term limits concerned you? And you should know, Mike, [Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry] drinks Big Gulps.”
The clip also includes a cameo by John McCain, with the lawmaker wondering whether Conan O’Brien was the right pick to host the dinner.
“He’s the one that got fired from 'The Tonight Show,' right?” McCain asks.
“Yes, and then he moved over to TBS,” Underwood responds.
“Is that a real network?”
“No, but neither is NBC.”

Many Openings at State Agency Go to Those With Ties to Cuomo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pledged to curb patronage, but many of his allies have found jobs at New York’s economic development agency, including some with little experience.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mayoral Candidates Quizzed on Use of Drones

Adolfo Carrión Jr. was the only mayoral hopeful at a forum on Friday to refuse to rule out the use of the drones for surveillance.

Democrats Said to Discuss Plan for Bronx District Attorney to Resign

With Robert T. Johnson under fire, party leaders have been discussing a proposal that would ease the way for him to step down, according to several people familiar with the idea.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 25, 2013

Video: Bloomberg and Kelly Speak on Boston Bombers

The mayor and police commissioner discussed possible links between the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and New York City.
 Subject: Wall Street Journal article about HEAF: please feel free to pass along the article to colleagues to update them about HEAF.

NYU-Poly Partners with HEAF to Offer "STEM" Education to Middle School Students
NEW YORK – April 18, 2013 – Continuing its tradition of offering the most advanced coursework to its middle and high school students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and other areas, nonprofit Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) has partnered with the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) to expand NYU-Poly’s prestigious Science of Smart Cities (SoSC) program to HEAF’s seventh and eighth graders. SoSC offers New York City public school students the opportunity to learn and apply advanced STEM knowledge and skills through hands-on instruction, innovative curriculum and field trips with the hope to prepare students to pursue STEM careers. 
NYU Poly’s Center for K12 STEM Education builds on an existing academic relationship with HEAF, the leading supplemental education nonprofit in New York City that turns underserved New York City middle and high school students into high-achieving college graduates. Taught by the university’s undergrad students, NYU-Poly’s SoSC offers HEAF’s middle school students the opportunity to learn and understand how various urban systems, including water, waste management, energy and communications, function and how advances in technology and engineering can  improve the world’s cities.
Applying what they have learned in these specialized classes, the students visited the downtown Brooklyn offices of Northrop Grumman, a leading American aerospace and defense technology company as well as an avid supporter of STEM education among K-12 students. HEAF students received instruction from Northrop Grumman engineers who covered a range of contemporary urban topics, such as traffic engineering and sustainability. In May, the program culminates in final projects for which students will construct their own model “smart city” using real-world materials and technologies.
Programs such as NYU-Poly’s SoSC that expose students to STEM fields early in their academic careers are more important than ever. The demand for STEM education is increasing both at the federal and local levels, as the U.S. competes to reassert its position as a global leader in the science and technology fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 2.1 million new jobs in STEM areas will exist by 2020. However, only 23 percent of college freshmen are entering STEM majors, and only a fraction of these students are African American and Latino.  Both HEAF and NYU-Poly are recognized leaders in educating underserved communities.
“As President Obama recently stated in his State of the Union address and has reinforced through his Administration’s Educate to Innovate campaign, we need to better equip students for the demands of a high-tech economy,” said Ruth Rathblott, president and CEO of HEAF. “In order to do that, we must increase STEM literacy among students, especially those from underrepresented groups, and provide hands-on, real-world experiences that pique their intellectual curiosity and build their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Through our great partnership with NYU-Poly and our own curriculum, we are arming our students with highly advanced coursework and exposing them to a higher education experience early on, which will prepare them for college, career and a lifetime of learning.”
“We are delighted to partner with HEAF to provide our STEM curriculum to their students and introduce the field of engineering in the context of urban systems and sustainability,” said Ben Esner, director of the Center for K12 STEM Education at NYU-Poly. “NYU-Poly’s Science of Smart Cities program starts with something young people relate to—their immediate environment—and demonstrates how the tools of science and technology can shape the future they’d like to make happen.”
HEAF’s participation in NYU-Poly’s SoSC is just one example of how HEAF is exposing its students to college-level work and direct experience with higher education institutions. Last year, an NYU-Poly graduate student mentored HEAF’s high school students through the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition, during which HEAF students designed, built and programmed robots to compete against other high school teams. HEAF frequently partners with a number of other prestigious universities – such as Barnard College, where students have studied humanities including women’s history, and Touro College, where students have studied health education – to expose them to college-level work that is often not available to inner-city students.
For more than 20 years, HEAF has an unmatched track record of success with 100 percent of students graduating high school and 98 percent pursing higher education. This compares to 65 percent of all New York City students graduating high school and only 37 percent of African-American and Hispanic male youth completing high school in four years.
For more information about HEAF or the Smart Cities program, visit For more information on NYU-Poly’s K12 Center for STEM Education, visit
EDITOR’S NOTE: On May 18, 2013 at 12 p.m. ET, HEAF students will present their Science of Smart Cities projects at HEAF (2090 Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard, New York, N.Y. 10027). Media are invited to attend.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

        The “Big Idea” Workshop

How to Wield "Smart Power"

By Daniel Rose

“Power” is usually defined as the ability to influence the behavior of others, with “force” and “persuasion” the two conventional methods.

Nicolo Machiavelli (whose chief lesson from the Bible, he noted in The Prince, was that “all armed prophets have been victorious and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed”) is the protagonist of the first, known as “hard power.”  “The end justifies the means” and “It is better to be feared than loved” are other Machiavelli messages.

Dale Carnegie, the gracious author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, is the spokesman for the second approach, known as “soft power.”  “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.”  “Show respect for the other person’s opinions.” “Be a good listener.” “Let the other person feel the idea was his.”—these are some of Carnegie’s rules.

Variations on these themes are common.  Robert Moses used his form of hard power to create a staggering array of New York’s bridges, parks, highways and beaches, while Jane Jacobs used her form of soft power to prevent him from extending Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park or from putting an east-west expressway through lower Manhattan.

In today’s world life is more complex; modern thinking focuses not on hard or soft but on “smart power”—the application of the full range of tools available to achieve one’s goals, with wisdom in considering strategy and shrewdness in selecting tactics.  Foreign affairs challenges in a multi-polar world, for example, require diplomatic, military and economic resources and astute use of alliances, partnerships and institutions of all sorts.  In the world’s military academies, along with Clausewitz’s classic On War, Sun Tzu’s 2000 year old The Art of War—with its sophisticated balance of psychology and armament, deception and threat, short term tactics and long term strategy—is on every reading list.  Generals Colin Powell and George C. Marshall felt that the thoughtful, balanced perspectives and insights of Thucydides, the ancient Athenian general, were as applicable today as when they were written 2,500 years ago.  (If George W. Bush had known of the Athenian experience in Sicily he might have thought twice about a land war in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

In America’s current partisan political climate—with the “legalized bribery” of political campaign contributions, with massive expenditures on television commercials and newsprint advertising, with “public relations” the single art form in which we excel today, the ability to influence the behavior of others is more devious than ever, but results vary, depending on the cards you are dealt and the skill with which you play them.

Lyndon Johnson’s ability to pass a Civil Rights bill that John Kennedy could not is an interesting lesson, and the differing approaches to gun control legislation of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton may provide a rerun of a similar script.

President Obama, an eloquent idealist, has proposed sweeping measures that Republicans have pledged to defeat.  The National Rifle Association, with vast lobbying sums at its disposal, is marshaling powerful forces in opposition.  Public opinion polls show that the public is now ready for appropriate measures.

Bill Clinton, an astute political operative, points out that passing the 1994 federal assault weapons ban “devastated” more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers in the 1994 mid-term elections, including then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley, who lost his job and his seat in Congress.  Speaking to Obama’s National Finance Committee during this second inaugural weekend, Clinton advised fighting the gun control battle by “using the combination of technology, social media and personal contact the way the Obama campaign won Florida, won Ohio.  Really touch people and talk to them about it.”  Taking a page from Dale Carnegie’s playbook, Clinton said, “Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your noses at them. Don’t underestimate the emotional response gun controls evoke from people in rural states,” Clinton warned; “I know because I come from this world.”

Lyndon Johnson came from the anti-civil rights south, and the story of how he passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 is brilliantly told in Robert Caro’s new book The Passage of Power.  

How he kept Judge Howard Smith, Chair of the House Rules Committee, from keeping the legislation bottled up indefinitely in committee (the south’s traditional strategy); how he played on Senator Harry Byrd’s weaknesses (taxes) and used his strengths, while coopting Senator Richard Russell; how he gave Martin Luther King, Jr. a list of specific Republican congressmen to be worked on; how he brazenly used Brown and Root’s deep-ocean drilling project called “Mohole” as a hostage; how the Steelworkers Union’s 33 lobbyists worked at his behest with those of the Electrical Workers and the Auto Workers; how Roy Wilkins was asked to repeat openly “the NAACP’s intention of purging congressmen who voted against it”; how he pleaded, bullied, threatened—until on December 24th at 7:00 AM (so congressmen could get home for Christmas) Lyndon Johnson got the crucial vote he needed.

Will effective gun control legislation be passed soon?  It could depend on how the “mechanics” are handled, and if President Obama’s team follows the suggestions of President Bill Clinton and the approach of President Lyndon Johnson.

California’s anti-gun Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has submitted to the Senate a stringent “winner take all” bill, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week that an assault-weapons ban could not pass the Senate.  Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the only Democrat with an A plus rating from the NRA, suggests strengthening existing gun laws effectively before tackling more stringent ones.

Given public sentiment, it seems clear that a deal can be made—if it is handled with political deftness.  This is not always the case.  Early in Bill Clinton’s first presidential term, I had lunch with an apoplectic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who had just received from Ira Magaziner (known as “Hillary Clinton’s Rasputin”) a report from Hillary Clinton’s secretly-conducted Task Force to Reform Health Care.  “This must be passed,” said Magaziner to Moynihan, “without changing the dotting of an “i” or the crossing of a “t.”  Moynihan (in favor of a health bill) nearly wept when he said “Not a chance; not a chance.”  Pat had just agreed with Republican Bob Dole on a major, but more modest, measure that would have been widely acceptable.  As a result of Magaziner’s (and Hillary’s) intransigence, it was two decades before a major health care bill again was presented.

New York’s wonderfully effective Mayor Michael Bloomberg has achieved many important things for the city he loves, but “Congestion Pricing” was not among them.  Had the new revenues from cars coming into Manhattan been specifically designated and promoted to improving mass transit in the outer boroughs (with extended subway lines, better bus service), a constituency in support of the bill could have been created.  As presented, the proceeds flowed to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which refused to reveal how the new funds would be used.  The public reaction:  “Just another tax and the Hell with it.”  And much desired congestion pricing was never passed.

In the cases of Hillary Clinton’s health care bill, Mike Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal and current gun control legislation, it would be worthwhile to contemplate what Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Thucydides might have advised.

For ordinary folks who want to influence public policy but who can’t make vast political contributions like the Koch brothers, who can’t snag the headlines Donald Trump can, who can’t imply “followership” (real or imaginary) as Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson do—what can and should they do?

The answer is: be active rather than passive, join groups of kindred spirits, writing, speaking, communicating with public officials.  As a centrist who is appalled by the extreme views of Tea Party types on the right and Occupy Wall  Streeters on the left, I acknowledge their impact and can only hope that the moderate groups I espouse—“No Labels,” “Common Cause” and others—will be heard over the extremist din.

Effective activities must have messages and messengers—specific agenda items and vehicles to promulgate them.

Whether on macro issues such as immigration, health care or climate change, or on micro issues affecting your town or borough, your local school or local zoning, your trade or professional concerns, the basics are the same:

A)                   Become well-informed on the issues—not on just the headline
generalities but on the specific details;

B)             Think through carefully your long term goals, intermediate term            goals and your short term goals;

C)             Know, and relate to, your allies—actual or potential, and cultivate them;

D)             Understand the goals, strategies and “levers of power” of your adversaries, especially their strengths and their weaknesses;

E)              Confer, consult, seek advice and support from your kindred spirits, being prepared to modify your specific views when necessary to strengthen the general case;

F)              Prepare concrete plans of action that are subject to revision as unfolding events dictate.  (Clausewitz worried about “the fog of war.”)

G)              Persist, persist, persist;

H)             Invite me to your victory celebration.

(Daniel Rose’s talks may be found on

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Apr. 23 (GIN) – The maker of Nabisco and Oreo cookies, Cadbury, Milka and Toblerone chocolates, among other high-caloric sweets, has agreed to address hunger, poverty and unequal pay among women cocoa farmers in West Africa. The firm conceded in response to a massive letter campaign organized by a rights group.

Mondelez International, with headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, initially denied they were not meeting the goals to improve working conditions for women who, as reported by the rights group Oxfam, are paid less than men and suffer discrimination in access to training and materials.

“We are surprised that Oxfam does not acknowledge these investments in its report,” the company said initially.

But the UK-based Oxfam said the manufacturer was avoiding the issue and was instead “compiling a laundry list of well-known existing projects.”

Last month, Oxfam called on the top 3 chocolate manufacturers – Mondelez, Nestle and Mars - to conduct independent audits after finding women cocoa farmers were paid less than men, suffered degrading treatment from male supervisors, and were unable to obtain loans from banks and other creditors. In Nigeria, some cocoa farmers earn as little as $2 a day.

Thousands of Oxfam activists flooded the company with letters backing the demand.

This week’s announcement by Mondelēz to launch an action plan by April 1, 2014 to improve working conditions in Ghana and Ivory Coast and to sign onto the UN Women's Empowerment Principles by April 26, 2013, comes on top of commitments last month by Mars and Nestle to address these issues. The three companies together control 42 percent of the world chocolate market.

Mondelēz employs about 100,000 people worldwide, with an annual revenue of approximately $36 billion and operations in more than 80 countries.

“Those chocolate companies that seek quality output but ignore the gender dimension of cocoa sourcing do so at their long-term peril,” wrote researcher Stephanie Barrientos, project coordinator of “Mapping Sustainable Production in Ghanaian Cocoa.” w/pix of woman cocoa farmer
When politicians kiss
  • Last Updated: 12:39 AM, April 23, 2013
  • Posted: April 23, 2013
When politicians exchange kisses, it’s best to watch their hands — there’s usually money being exchanged, too. So it was last week when Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz endorsed Christine Quinn for mayor with a peck on the cheek.
Council Speaker Quinn’s campaign called the move “one of the most high-profile endorsements to date.” But it came after she showered more than $1 million in taxpayer money on non-profits Markowitz created.
As Crain’s New York reported, since 2011 Quinn has steered $450,000 in City Council slush funds to Marty’s Seaside Summer Concert Series, another $400,000 to his Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series and $175,000 to his group Best of Brooklyn.

Theodore Parisienne
Chris Quinn & Marty Markowitz

The concerts have helped keep Markowitz in office for decades. Marty puts on a party and soaks up the credit for his free summer concerts, giving him real political capital in Brooklyn. Now the setup is helping steer Quinn into Gracie Mansion.
It’s a simple con, but it does violence to the civic order: Council leaders should not be able to ladle out taxpayer money to aid fellow politicians and buy their loyalty.
In his endorsement, Marty called Quinn a “visionary.” The truth is, she’s just sharp enough to see that Marty’s endorsement can be bought — with your money.

New Yorkers Expect More Arrests of Legislators, Maybe Their Own, Poll Says

In a Siena College survey, more than half of the participants described themselves as cynical about politics in New York, and nearly that number said most state legislators “cannot be trusted.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bronx Boy Bombs in Bismarck

A.J. Clemente, from the Bronx, busted his new career in Bisrmarck, North Dakota.  In a video that has gone viral, a nervous A.J. forgot that his mic was still open. Although he was fired for his epic on-air blunder, he has made a name for himself.

Stay tuned.  He will surface again in an industry that rewards public figures for their controversy.

At Forum, Animosity and Jeers for Quinn

The audience directed its anger over Bloomberg’s policies toward City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn, and one of her opponents for mayor took several opportunities to criticize her.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (photo: AP)
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (photo: AP)

The Chechen Grievance: Tolstoy's 'Hadji Murad' After Boston

By Benjamin Lytal, The Daily Beast
21 April 13
As everyone followed the Boston manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers, thoughts turned to Tolstoy’s final novel, ‘Hadji Murad,’ about Chechen rebels fighting Russian imperialism. Benjamin Lytal checks in on the master’s tale of anti-heroism and betrayal.

n Friday, while CNN was making constant reference to the Tsarnaev brothers' attempt "to go out in a blaze of glory," a micro-meme lit up social media: didn't Leo Tolstoy have a novel about Chechnyan rebels, called Hadji Murad? He does: it was his last, a thin book that everyone should read. While it offers few overt parallels to a case of 21st century terrorism, Tolstoy's novel sets the stage for the Chechen grievance-and tribal dysfunction. But what is more piercing, when Dzokhar Tsarnaev's image is haunting the public eye, is Tolstoy's insight into the dire symbiosis between heroic desires and boyish innocence.
Tolstoy would have been the first to reject an idea like "going out in a blaze of glory." In battle scenes he was a master of anticlimax: perhaps the best-remembered moment in all of War and Peace is young Nikolai Rostov's first cavalry charge: knocked from the saddle by a bullet the bewildered twenty-year-old turns tail: "They're not after me! They can't be after me! Why? They can't want to kill me! Me. Everybody loves me!'" Like, one suspects, many a hunted young man-boy, Nikolai is haunted by "all the love he had from his mother, from his family and his friends." He can't reconcile such a background with all the trouble he has gotten into.
Tolstoy was a complicated man, however. He understood glory, even in its shallowness. Maxim Gorky tells the story, in his priceless Recollections, of Tolstoy's reaction to two proud young cuirassiers, walking down the street in their shining armor. As they approached, he cursed them: "What magnificent idiocy! They're nothing but circus animals trained with a stick . . . " But as they passed, Tolstoy gazed on admiringly: "How beautiful they are! Ancient Romans, eh, Lyovushka?"
Tolstoy's 1904 novel begins with a fifteen-year-old boy staring at the eponymous hero. "Everyone in the mountains knew Hadji Murad, and how he slew the Russian swine." Betrayed by the Chechnyan chieftain, Shamil, Murad is at the novel's beginning a fugitive, wrapped in a burka. The boy can't stop staring at him-indeed, the boy's "sparkling eyes, black as ripe sloes" contain all the sickly-sweet potential of a desperate boy's life. Several chapters later the boy's village, where Murad had taken refuge, will be razed by Russian troops.
The Russians, no less than the Chechnyans, are eager to get a look at Murad. Forced by his feud with Shamil to defect, he arranges to ride over to the Russians: the officer who takes him into custody has no translator, and has to gesture and smile. Murad smiles back, "and that smile struck Poltorátsky by its childlike kindliness. . . . He expected to see a morose, hard-featured man; and here was a vivacious person, whose smile was so kindly that Poltorátsky felt as if he were an old acquaintance. He had but one peculiarity: his eyes, set wide apart, gazed from under their black brows attentively, penetratingly and calmly into the eyes of others." The much-feared Murad charms the Russians. They give him a translator and allow him to pray at the appointed times. "He is delightful, your brigand!" reports an officer's wife. Tolstoy is very sensitive to the way we look at our babyfaced enemies: our outward condescension, our inner relief, our deluded, liberal belief that we already know them.
It is strange that Tolstoy, by this time a guru of peaceful resistance who would inspire Ghandi, wrote his final novel about a hero who kept multiple daggers on his person. To be clear: neither Murad nor the other Chechnyans in Tolstoy's book are terrorists. They are rebel insurgents defending their homeland against Russian invaders, who want to annex the Caucasus in order to connect their empire to Georgia. Murad hopes that the Russians will give him an army that he might march against Shamil. He dreams about how he would "take [Shamil] prisoner, and revenge himself on him; and how the Russian Tsar would reward him, and he would again rule over not only Avaria, but also over the whole of Chechnya." Most Chechnyans in this book are sworn to some form of political violence. But it is usually directed at other Chechnyans: theirs is a world of mutually recognized blood feuds. It is a function of their myopic passion that they think they of the Russian Empire as a pawn in their game.
As with War & Peace or Anna Karenina, Tolstoy built Hadji Murad out of multiple plots, which he cycles between for cunning, highly-contrastive effect. But because Hadji Murad is only 100 pages long, its structure is more obvious, even flashy. Ludwig Wittgenstein, of all people, admired it. It has the cold, distilled clarity of late work. Critic John Bayley reads the book as a fantasy, for Tolstoy, of certainty: the ruthless Murad being the opposite of the Tolstoy who, dying at the Astapovo railway station repeated over and over, "I do not understand what it is I have to do." But the book must also be read as a study in just this kind of indecision. Fit into its 100 pages is every viewpoint: Tolstoy fully characterizes and motivates everyone from Tsar Nicholas I (a useless letch) to individual soldiers-like Butler, a good man heartbreakingly addicted to gambling, or Avdeev, whose death opens up a startling sidelight on his peasant parents-to several of Murad's disciples (notably shy Eldár, with his ram's eyes) to Shamil himself.
In so much context, anybody's brave death basically has to be meaningless. If Murad is a hero, perhaps Bayley is right: it is simply because he is resolute. Tired of waiting on the Russians to make up their minds about his cause, he rides out with his disciples one day, shakes his escort, and makes for the mountains. However, in trying to cut across a flooded rice field, he and his friends are bogged down. They decide to hide, and sleep through the night. Meanwhile a peasant tips off the army. At dawn, Murad finds a line of Russians advancing on one side. On the other-and this is the decisive tactical fact-are Chechnyan fighters who have betrayed him.
With the right soundtrack, in the hands of a Hollywood director, it could have been a blaze of glory. But we know that Murad's life is no longer glorious. He has spent the entire novel in the waiting rooms of Russian generals. The decision to cross the rice field seems stupid, meaningless. Tolstoy is a master of anticlimax. Apocalypse is not, as some terrorists have it, now. If his final novel presents a more balanced view of imperialist politics than even Heart of Darkness (with which it was contemporary), it is because Tolstoy knows there are no climaxes: conflicts like this one will drag on forever.
Ultimately, Tolstoy cares less about glory than about another theme: He's interested in the way that childhood haunts heroism. Murad's head is cut off and carried from camp to camp: "The shaven skull was cleft, but not right through, and there was congealed blood in the nose. . . . Notwithstanding the many wounds on the head, the blue lips still bore a kindly, childlike expression." The Russians who had befriended Murad turn away, shocked.
It is just before his final, rebellious escape, that Murad meditates on his own childhood-and on that of his son, whom he fatefully, tragically wants to rescue. He is reminded of a song, one his mother composed at his birth, addressed to his father:
"Thy sword of Damascus-steel tore my white bosom;
But close on it laid I my own little boy;
In my hot-streaming blood him I laved; and the wound
Without herbs or specifics was soon fully healed.
As I, facing death, remained fearless, so he,
My boy, my dzhigit, from all fear shall be free!"
**All quotes are from Aylmer Maud's translation of Hadji Murad (Orchises: Alexandria, VA, 1996).

Sleeper Cells?

TTamerlan Tsarnaev killed. His brother Dzhokhar captured

TTamerlan Tsarnaev killed. His brother Dzhokhar captured

TTamerlan Tsarnaev killed. His brother Dzhokhar captured

The Tsarnaev brothers were double agents who decoyed US into terror trap DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis April 20, 2013, 4:39 PM (GMT+02:00)
The big questions buzzing over Boston Bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have a single answer: It emerged in the 102 tense hours between the twin Boston Marathonbombings Monday, April 15 – which left three dead, 180 injured and a police officer killed at MIT - and Dzohkhar’s capture Friday, April 19 in Watertown.
The conclusion reached by DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism and intelligence sources is that the brothers were double agents, hired by US and Saudi intelligence to penetrate the Wahhabi jihadist networks which, helped by Saudi financial institutions, had spread across the restive Russian Caucasian.
Instead, the two former Chechens betrayed their mission and went secretly over to the radical Islamist networks.
By this tortuous path, the brothers earned the dubious distinction of being the first terrorist operatives to import al Qaeda terror to the United States through a winding route outside the Middle East – the Caucasus.
This broad region encompasses the autonomous or semi-autonomous Muslim republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Chechnya, North Ossetia and Karachyevo-Cherkesiya, most of which the West has never heard of.
Moscow however keeps these republics on a tight military and intelligence leash, constantly putting down violent resistance by the Wahhabist cells, which draw support from certain Saudi sources and funds from the Riyadh government for building Wahhabist mosques and schools to disseminate the state religion of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis feared that their convoluted involvement in the Caucasus would come embarrassingly to light when a Saudi student was questioned about his involvement in the bombng attacks while in a Boston hospital with badly burned hands.
They were concerned to enough to send Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal to Washington Wednesday, April 17, in the middle of the Boston Marathon bombing crisis, for a private conversation with President Barack Obama and his national security adviser Tom Donilon on how to handle the Saudi angle of the bombing attack.
That day too, official Saudi domestic media launched an extraordinary three-day campaign. National and religious figures stood up and maintained that authentic Saudi Wahhabism does not espouse any form of terrorism or suicide jihadism and the national Saudi religion had nothing to do with the violence in Boston.  “No matter what the nationality and religious of the perpetrators, they are terrorists and deviants who represent no one but themselves.”
Prince Saud was on a mission to clear the 30,000 Saudi students in America of suspicion of engaging in terrorism for their country or religion, a taint which still lingers twelve years after 9/11. He was concerned that exposure of the Tsarnaev brothers’ connections with Wahhabist groups in the Caucasus would revive the stigma.
The Tsarnaevs' recruitment by US intelligence as penetration agents against terrorist networks in southern Russia explains some otherwise baffling features of the event:
1.  An elite American college in Cambridge admitted younger brother Dzhokhar and granted him a $2,500 scholarship, without subjecting him to the exceptionally stiff standard conditions of admission. This may be explained by his older brother Tamerlan demanding this privilege for his kid brother in part payment for recruitment.
2.  When in 2011, a “foreign government” (Russian intelligence) asked the FBI to screen Tamerlan for suspected ties to Caucasian Wahhabist cells during a period in which they had begun pledging allegiance to al Qaeda, the agency, it was officially revealed, found nothing incriminating against him and let him go after a short interview.
He was not placed under surveillance. Neither was there any attempt to hide the fact that he paid a long visit to Russia last year and on his return began promoting radical Islam on social media.
Yet even after the Boston marathon bombings, when law enforcement agencies, heavily reinforced by federal and state personnel, desperately hunted the perpetrators, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was never mentioned as a possible suspect
3.  Friday, four days after the twin explosions at the marathon finishing line, the FBI released footage of Suspect No. 1 in a black hat and Suspect No. 2 in a white hat walking briskly away from the crime scene, and appealed to the public to help the authorities identify the pair.
We now know this was a charade. The authorities knew exactly who they were. Suddenly, during the police pursuit of their getaway car from the MIT campus on Friday, they were fully identified. The brother who was killed in the chase was named Tamerlan, aged 26, and the one who escaped, only to be hunted down Saturday night hiding in a boat, was 19-year old Dzhokhar.
Our intelligence sources say that we may never know more than we do today about the Boston terrorist outrage which shook America – and most strikingly, Washington - this week. We may not have the full story of when and how the Chechen brothers were recruited by US intelligence as penetration agents – any more than we have got to the bottom of tales of other American double agents who turned coat and bit their recruiters.
Here is just a short list of some of the Chechen brothers’ two-faced predecessors:
In the 1980s, an Egyptian called Ali Abdul Saoud Mohamed offered his services as a spy to the CIA residence in Cairo. He was hired, even though he was at the time the official interpreter of Ayman al-Zuwahiri, then Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant and currently his successor.
He accounted for this by posing as a defector. But then, he turned out to be feeding al Qaeda US military secrets. Later, he was charged with Al Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam.
On Dec. 30, 2009, the Jordanian physician Humam Khalil al-Balawi, having gained the trust of US intelligence in Afghanistan as an agent capable of penetrating al Qaeda’s top ranks, detonated a bomb at a prearranged rendezvous in Kost, killing the four top CIA agents in the country.
Then, there was the French Muslim Mohamed Merah. He was recruited by French intelligence to penetrate Islamist terror cells in at least eight countries, including the Caucasus. At the end of last year, he revealed his true spots in deadly attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse and a group of French military commandoes.
The debate has begun over the interrogation of the captured Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarmayev when he is fit for questioning after surgery for two bullet wounds and loss of blood. The first was inflicted during the police chase in which his brother Tamerlan was killed.
An ordinary suspect would be read his rights (Miranda) and be permitted a lawyer. In his case, the “public safety exemption” option may be invoked, permitting him to be questioned without those rights, provided the interrogation is restricted to immediate public safety concerns. President Barack Obama is also entitled to rule him an “enemy combatant” and so refer him to a military tribunal and unrestricted grilling.
According to DEBKAfile’s counter terror sources, four questions should top the interrogators' agenda:
a) At what date did the Tsarnaev brothers turn coat and decide to work for Caucasian Wahhabi networks?
b) Did they round up recruits for those networks in the United States - particularly, among the Caucasian and Saudi communities?
c)  What was the exact purpose of the Boston Marathon bombings and their aftermath at MIT in Watertown?
d) Are any more terrorist attacks in the works in other American cities?
Capital Ideas: Hispanics, the New Italians

Friday, April 19, 2013

City Council’s Outreach Unit, Run by Quinn, Also Benefits Her Campaign

Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor, has firm control of a staff of 16, many of them her supporters.

Getty Images

Police Swarm Home in Boston Manhunt

After killing one suspect in a wild shootout, authorities are closing in on a second suspect while Boston and the suburbs are on lock down.
 On the steps of City Hall, New York City Comptroller John C. Liu spoke about Mayor Bloomberg's plans to sell numerous public Libraries in transactions structure to benefit real estate developers— not the public. Library usage is way up in New York City but real estate industry companies are looking to have these public assets transferred to them, seeking to replace them with luxury condominiums and hotels, shrinking the library system in the process. Especially considering the benefit libraries provide, libraries cost little to funds but the Bloomberg administration in its last term has been starving them of funds and this underfunding is now being cited as an excuse to deprive the public still further by selling its property.
Where is Bloomberg sidekick, AKA Speaker BloomQuinn in the issue?
video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18th, 2013Top Story

Is the New York Post Edited by a Bigoted Drunk Who Fucks Pigs?

By Tom Scocca
Is the New York Post Edited by a Bigoted Drunk Who Fucks Pigs?This morning, the New York Post published on its front page a photo of two spectators near the Boston Marathon finish line, one wearing a backpack and one with a duffel bag slung at his side, under the headline "BAG MEN."
"Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon," the giant subhead added.
The two had nothing to do with the bombing. One of them, whose face is clearly shown on the front page, is a 17-year-old high-school runner. They were among the many bag-toting people whose images were being studied by the internet hive-mind yesterday, and there was no good reason to think they were the bombers. Yet there they were, on every newsstand in New York: "Feds seek these two."
As it has been all week, the New York Post was wrong. And as it has all week, the Post denied being wrong. This afternoon—after the Post had run a story conceding that the two were not suspects—Col Allan, the paper's editor, issued a statement defending the front page:
We stand by our story. The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.
This is legalistic horseshit. In small type, the cover did say that "there is no direct evidence linking them to the crime, but authorities want to identify them." But it was the front page image in the newspaper. The whole point of putting them on the cover was to imply that these two—rather than the dozens of other backpack-bearing figures being scrutinized yesterday—were under serious suspicion.
A normal newspaper editor—someone who wanted a scoop yet was concerned about embarrassing the paper or harming an innocent person—would not have slapped that picture on Page One without some deep underlying confidence that the two were serious suspects, and that the absence of "direct evidence" was a temporary condition. There is no sign that Col Allan had such confidence.
Given all the surrounding discussion and the shaky performance of the Post and its law-enforcement sources, one might even conclude that to have slapped the photo on the front page, an editor would have had to have been cripplingly stupid, cripplingly reckless, or both. We do not know for sure that Col Allan is cripplingly stupid and reckless. We may have heard from sources that Col Allan is stupid and reckless. But we do not know it, so we are not saying it.
Sources have also suggested that Col Allan may drink to excess, but we have no direct knowledge that he is an alcoholic, or that he was drunk at any time that he was guiding the Post through its various blunders in the marathon coverage. Col Allan may have been too drunk to recognize the mistakes that the Post was making—say, to see that it was publishing a front-page photo of young man carrying a royal-blue duffel bag when the authorities were saying the bombs had been in black bags. That is a mistake that a drunk person could conceivably have made, but we do not know that Col Allan was drunk when the Post made it.
The Post had previously identified an innocent Saudi as a suspect before it decided to put this brown-skinned teenager on the front page. The back-to-back focus on innocent people of non-European ancestry could imply that the Post is systematically hostile to nonwhite people, and that the paper's editors are so wedded to the notion that all Muslims are terrorists that they literally do not care which Muslim or "Muslim-looking" person they happen to be targeting on any particular day. We are not saying that Col Allan, motivated by bigotry, is intentionally trying to use the Post to stir up hostility against Muslims. We do not know that Col Allan is a racist. The evidence may suggest that he is a racist, but we are not saying that Col Allan is a racist.
It does seem clear, based on the flow of images and facts through Internet and the media yesterday, that the New York Post found itself sewed to the far end of an informational Human Centipede—evidently beginning with a crowd photo published on Deadspin, passing through Reddit and 4chan and Reddit and Reddit, being passed on to the investigators actively working the Boston case, then trickling through gossip-mongering New York law-enforcement officials, till it flowed over Col Allan's taste buds.
But we are not drawing any conclusions about that. Perhaps Col Allan and the New York Post are having an incredibly unlucky week. Perhaps the worthlessness of every single scoop the Post has had—its inability even to get the body count straight—does not prove that the editor is a booze-addled, race-baiting, information-illiterate moron who has neither the common sense nor the journalistic skills to avoid repeatedly humiliating his newspaper.
We would not say that, any more than we would say that Col Allan fucks pigs. He is from Australia; if he were to engage in bestiality, it's much more likely that it would be with sheep. But we are not saying Col Allan fucks sheep, either. It could be that Col Allan fucks pigs or sheep. We do not know. It would be irresponsible to speculate.
[Image via AP]
April 18, 2013 1:14 PM ET

Bloomberg Blasts Senators Who Opposed Broader Background Checks for Gun Buyers

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the lawmakers had acted out of political self-interest, and he predicted they would ultimately find their calculation to have been wrong.

'A shameful day for Washington': Furious Obama slams Senate's rejection of expanded gun background checks

The background check deal for gun sales was brokered by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.), and suffered a crushing defeat Wednesday afternoon when senators voted it down 54-46.

Comments (601)
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 7:06 AM

 US President Barack Obama is accompanied by former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords (L), vice president Joe Biden (R) and family members of Newtown school shooting victims as he speaks on gun control at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2013. Obama on Wednesday slammed what he called a "minority" in the US Senate for blocking legislation that would have expanded background checks on those seeking to buy guns. 


US President Barack Obama is accompanied by former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords (L), vice president Joe Biden (R) and family members of Newtown school shooting victims as he speaks on gun control at the Rose Garden of the White House.

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday killed the most far-reaching gun control bill in 20 years, dealing a heartbreak to relatives of Newtown victims that left President Obama seething and Vice President Biden on the brink of tears.
“This was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Obama fumed.
A bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun purchasers mustered 54 “yes” votes — well short of the 60 needed for passage under Senate rules, despite days of one-on-one lobbying by Newtown relatives and months of campaigning by Obama.
“Shame on you!” yelled Pricia Maisch, a survivor of the 2011 shooting in Tucson that killed six and wounded 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Maisch had been watching from the Senate gallery with other victims of gun violence and Newtown families.
A short time later at the White House, Obama delivered one of the most pointed speeches of his presidency.
Flanked by Giffords, Newtown families and a visibly upset Biden, Obama charged that the gun lobby “willfully lied about the bill” and that senators “caved to pressure and started looking for excuses, any excuse, to vote” against it.
President Obama on Wednesday angrily blamed politics for the failure of gun control legislation and urged voters to send a message at the ballot box that they want stronger gun laws.


President Obama on Wednesday angrily blamed politics for the failure of gun control legislation and urged voters to send a message at the ballot box that they want stronger gun laws.

Obama said the senators who opposed the background-check provision — most Republicans and a handful of Democrats — “could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun.”
“It came down to politics,” Obama said.
“If action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand — if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try,” Obama added.
“And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.”
Obama was introduced by Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was one of the 26 students and educators killed in the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Father of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim, Mark Barden (L) hugs Vice President Biden after introducing President Obama to make a statement on gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Father of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim, Mark Barden (L) hugs Vice President Biden after introducing President Obama to make a statement on gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Barden vowed that the fight for meaningful gun control would press on.
“We are not going away, and every day as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence, our determination grows.”
Obama had made the fight for gun control a pillar of his second-term agenda after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
And expanding background checks eventually became the centerpiece of his crusade, considered the most significant new measure that had a chance of getting through Congress.
The President also tried to reinstate the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and limit the sale of high-capacity magazines.
Front page of the April 18, 2013 edition of the New York Daily News.

New York Daily News

Front page of the April 18, 2013 edition of the New York Daily News.

The Senate rejected those proposals, too, on Wednesday — but hopes those measures could be enacted had faded weeks ago.
The sponsor of the assault weapons ban, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), made a final plea for it on the Senate floor. She brought with her an enlarged copy of the Daily News front page from March 20 that declared “SHAME ON U.S.” when it became clear that the ban would not pass.
“I think it carries the message of what we’re trying to do here,” Feinstein said, revealing that she brings a copy of the front page “when I try to get people’s votes” on the proposal.
The compromise on background checks had been crafted by two senators with “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Their support gave hope to advocates that the proposal could get through the Senate. But the NRA mounted a furious lobbying campaign.
Mark Barden, the father of Newtown shooting victim Daniel, introduces President Obama at his news conference following the Senate vote to reject the gun sales background-check amendment.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Mark Barden, the father of Newtown shooting victim Daniel, introduces President Obama at his news conference following the Senate vote to reject the gun sales background-check amendment.

Just before the vote, Manchin accused the NRA of falsely telling its members that friends, neighbors and some family members would need federal permission to transfer ownership of firearms to one another under the proposal.
“Where I come from in West Virginia … that’s a lie,” Manchin said.
The NRA issued a statement after the vote that restated the claim.
The measure “would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution,” said NRA lobbyist Chris Cox.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who voted against the proposal, said, “Expanded background checks would not have prevented Newtown. Criminals do not submit to background checks.”
President Barack Obama addresses the Senate's rejection of the background-check deal during a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House.

White House Livestream

President Barack Obama addresses the Senate's rejection of the background-check deal during a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Wednesday’s votes left the Senate’s gun bill consisting of a gun trafficking law to curb straw purchases, a priority for the NYPD; mental health and school safety provisions; and a Democratic background-check provision that could mean defeat of the entire bill.
House prospects are dim. Rep. Pete King (R.-L.I.), who introduced the Toomey-Manchin compromise as a House bill, said the Senate votes likely doomed the measure in the House.
The day’s votes left Giffords, Mayor Bloomberg and other supporters of new gun controls vowing to make opponents pay at the ballot box.
“Moments ago, the U.S. Senate decided to do the unthinkable about gun violence — nothing at all,” Giffords wrote in an email to supporters.
“Over two years ago, when I was shot point-blank in the head, the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. Four months ago, 20 first-graders lost their lives in a brutal attack on their school, and the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing,” she added.
The background check deal failed in the Senate despite efforts by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was in Washington to encourage undecided senators to support the compromise.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The background check deal failed in the Senate despite efforts by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was in Washington to encourage undecided senators to support the compromise.

“It’s clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate.”
Said Bloomberg, “The only silver lining is that we now know who refuses to stand with the 90% of Americans — and in 2014, our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don’t forget.”
“I see this as just round one,” Obama said. “Things are gonna change.”
“I believe were going to be able to get this done,” he added. “Sooner or later, we’re going to get this right.”
Carlee Soto, 20, whose sister, Victoria Soto, was killed in Newtown, said lawmakers had not seen the last of her.
“This is what I do. This is my life,” she said of her lobbying. “I fight for my sister and everyone else who has been killed with guns.”