Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight

Norman Lear, Los Angeles Times Norman Lear, award-winning creator of 'All In the Family,' political activist and founder of People for the American Way and social commentator extraordinaire. (photo: AMERICA IN PRIMETIME)
Norman Lear, award-winning creator of 'All In the Family,' political activist and founder of People for the American Way and social commentator extraordinaire. (photo: AMERICA IN PRIMETIME)

Occupy Wall Street protesters carry American flags up Seventh Avenue toward Times Square.

Occupy Wall Street protesters carry American flags up Seventh Avenue toward Times Square. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)

I was recently shown a picture from one of the Occupy protests taking place across the country. It featured a young woman surrounded by police. She was the only protester in the picture, but she didn't seem intimidated. All by herself, up against the police barricade, she held a handwritten sign saying simply "I am a born again American."

I've never met this woman, but I think I know exactly what she's feeling.

I had my first "born again American" moment 30 years ago, when I was moved to outrage and action by a group of hate-preaching televangelists who were trying to claim sole ownership of patriotism, faith and flag for the far right. One of them asked his viewing congregation to pray for the removal of a Supreme Court justice.

I did what I knew how to do and produced a 60-second TV spot. It featured a factory worker whose family members, all Christians, held an array of political beliefs. He didn't believe that anyone, not even a minister, had a right to judge whether people were good or bad Christians based on their political views. "That's not the American way," he wound up saying. I ran it on local TV, and it was picked up by the networks. People For the American Way grew out of the overwhelming response to that ad.

One of the most encouraging things to happen in 2011 was the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is giving the entire country the chance for a "born again American" moment. In calling attention to the country's widening chasm between rich and poor, the Occupiers have unleashed decades of pent-up patriotic outrage against the systematic violation of our nation's core principles by the "say good-bye to the middle class" alliance of the neocons, theocons and corporate America.

To those many millions of Americans whose guts tell them the Occupy movement is on to something but aren't the sort to camp out or protest in the street, I say find another way to let your voice be heard in the new year. Work with others who share your passion for equal opportunity and equal justice for all Americans, and find ways to channel outrage into productive action. I'm betting you'll find, as I have over my nearly four score plus 10, that you'll form some of the most rewarding relationships and have some of the most meaningful experiences of your life.

I have been lucky in many ways. I was raised by my immigrant grandfather to treasure the freedom and opportunities America offers. I also learned early to fear the power of demagogues with megaphones, as an 11-year-old listening to the anti-Semitic ravings and attacks on President Franklin D. Roosevelt from radio priest Father Coughlin, the spiritual godfather of those who poison our airwaves and online forums today. By the time I was a teenager, I knew that the values of individual and religious liberty were worth fighting for, which is why I dropped out of college to enlist in the war against Hitler.

Since then I have repeatedly seen Americans get off their couches to hold this country accountable to its stated values. They did it to fight for civil rights and the dismantling of the legal apartheid of Jim Crow; for the women's movement; for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. They have rallied to ensure that immigrants are treated with dignity and justice. All these efforts to overcome bigotry and institutionalized prejudice are still works in progress, but I am awed by the progress we have made.

Generations of Americans have worked to create a nation in which individual liberty can thrive alongside commitment to the principle that all members of a community should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and build a decent life for themselves and their families. In recent decades, that dream has been betrayed.

The religious right leaders who got me engaged in politics often portray such things as free expression and equal protection for all Americans no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation as anti-Christian and un-American, as symptoms of cultural decline. I couldn't disagree more. What strikes me as un-American are the greed, deception and systematic corruption that have infected politics, business and so much of our culture in recent years. Some of those with power and privilege have worked to create a system that continually reinforces that privilege and power, leaving ever-increasing numbers of Americans without reasonable hope for the kind of life their parents worked to give them.

Many Americans are in despair, and it has left them open to demagoguery and political manipulation. Blame gays, liberals, unions, immigrants or feminists for your family's struggles, for shrinking economic opportunity, for foreclosures and disappearing wages and benefits. Blame secularists or Muslims, or both, for the sense that our values have gone haywire.

A year out from the 2012 election, I am already tired of those who use the phrase "American exceptionalism" to reassert the far-right's claim that God, the Founding Fathers and any decent freedom-loving American must share their reactionary political agenda. I embrace the idea too that our nation should be a "shining city on a hill." We are the spiritual heirs to those Americans who struggled to end slavery and segregation, to end child labor and win safe conditions and living wages for workers, to enable every American to enrich his or her community and country by finding a place and a way to flourish in the world. We must make ourselves worthy of that legacy.

Call it the American dream, the American promise or the American way. Whatever term you use, it is imperiled, and worth fighting for. It is that basic, deeply patriotic emotion that I believe is finding expression — bottom-up, small-d democratic expression — in the Occupy movement. We can, and I would say must, fully embrace both love of country and outrage at attempts to despoil it. What better cause? What better time?

Television writer and producer Norman Lear founded People for the American Way.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Verizon Wireless to Charge $2 to Pay Some Bills

Verizon Wireless, the country's largest cellphone company, says it will start charging $2 for every payment subscribers make over the phone or online with their credit cards. (Dec. 30)

Quinn Under Fire for Seabrook’s Spending

Under a barrage of criticism Thursday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn stood behind her decision to give Councilman Larry Seabrook access to a pool of taxpayer funds that he allegedly abused.

A federal judge declared a mistrial in the corruption case against Seabrook earlier this month after jurors said they could not reach a verdict. The Bronx councilman has pleaded not guilty to charges he directed more than $1 million in taxpayer funds to a network of nonprofit organizations that he controlled. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said he intends to retry the case.

Quinn, a potential 2013 mayoral candidate, has been the target of fresh criticism this week for her decision to allow Seabrook access to these funds while he remains under federal indictment. On Thursday, Democratic mayoral hopeful Tom Allon lashed out at Quinn and argued that she failed to properly police Seabrook. The editorial boards of the New York Post and the Daily News also excoriated the speaker.

“She doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of not disciplining her members and continues to enable them to waste our precious taxpayer dollars,” Allon said. “She should cut Larry Seabrook off immediately.”

Jamie McShane, a spokesman for Quinn, denied that the money goes to waste, saying that “funding allocations are subject to approval based on a rigorous vetting process.”

As the Journal reported in June, Seabrook’s funding requests have faced a increased scrutiny because of the federal charges. A Quinn aide noted that Seabrook allocates funds to several well-regarded organizations, such as the Bronx Botanical Gardens and the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged.

Quinn has allowed Seabrook to access these so-called member items — derided by critics as pork — while he remains under indictment for abusing this same pot of taxpayer money. As part of the most recent budget cycle, Seabrook requested nearly $400,000 in taxpayer funds be directed to 13 organizations. These funds are a fraction of the nearly $50 million in member items that the council approved in the city’s $66 billion budget for the current fiscal year.

There has been no evidence that any of the funds Seabrook directed to be spent since the indictment are fraudulent, and there’s no evidence that he has an improper connection to any of the groups to which he has directed funds. Seabrook has remained an active voting member of the council while under indictment.

According to the indictment, Seabrook directed at least $2.5 million of council discretionary funds to nonprofits from 2002 through 2009 — including more than $1 million to groups he controlled. Roughly $530,000 ended up in the pockets of Seabrook’s girlfriend and family members, federal officials charged.

The most notorious allegation in the indictment involved a bagel. According to the charges, Seabrook bought a bagel sandwich and soda for $7 at an eatery near City Hall and doctored the receipt to show he spent $177.

In the News editorial, the board argued that Quinn should take away Seabrook’s access to these funds. “But that’s not how Speaker Christine Quinn sees it. She’s going to keep him on the gravy train. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong,” the News’ editorial said. The Post editorial called Quinn “a serial aider-and-abetter of council chiselers and cheats.”

Quinn aides have called these allegations unfair and untrue. In the spring of 2010, Quinn announced a set of reforms for discretionary funding that were supported by the city’s Department of Investigation, which conducted a probe that led to Seabrook’s indictment.

“The allegations in the indictment pre-date the council’s reforms, and none of the alleged actions could have happened since the reforms were implemented,” said McShane, a spokesman for Quinn.

The allegations against Seabrook have already been referred to the council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, which has held the matter in abeyance pending the outcome of the criminal case. If the criminal case ends without a felony conviction, the committee could then take up the allegations and recommend a punishment ranging from a reprimand to expulsion.

State can bounce Pedro Espada Jr. health care operation from Medicaid, judge rules

Espada claimed Gov. Cuomo was mounting a 'vendetta' against him by targeting Soundview Health Care Network

Thursday, December 22 2011, 9:23 PM

  Inauguration ceremony for Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. at the Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts.- making his speech after the swearing in.
Linda Rosier/New York Daily News

Then-state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. was nearing the height of his influence at the mike in January 2009 swearing-in, but his fall from power continued Thursday when a judge ruled the Cuomo administration had the right to kick Espada's health network out of the state's Medicaid program.

A BRONX judge on Thursday upheld the Cuomo administration’s decision to dump ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada’s Bronx health care network from the Medicaid program.

The decision could spell the end for Espada’s Soundview Health Care Network because Medicaid bucks account for some 70% of its funding.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice Mark Friedlander sided with the state Health Department, which in August had moved to remove Soundview from Medicaid. The agency cited Soundview’s failure to develop and follow a comprehensive compliance program as required by law.

Espada, who faces an upcoming corruption trial, was bounced from the Medicaid program in January, but he remains in the company’s hierarchy.

After the Health Department’s ruling, the network was granted a temporary stay, with Espada accusing Gov. Cuomo of pursuing a personal vendetta.

The decision was projected to cost the network more than $6 million a year. Monica Harris-Coleman, chairwoman of the network’s board, blasted the judge’s ruling, saying 20,000 patients would be affected.

“Government does not have a right to dictate how and where patients are seen by their medical providers, nor does it have the right to interfere with lawful employment contracts,” she said.

New drug Spice proliferating in U.S. military, officials admit; can cause hallucinations

Synthetic marijuana led to more than 1,000 investigations in 2011

Friday, December 30 2011, 10:37 AM

Synthetic marijuana known as Spice can cause hallucinations.
Synthetic marijuana known as Spice can cause hallucinations.

A new drug that can leave its users hallucinating for days is spreading through the military ranks at an alarming rate, military officials admitted.

The drug, a synthetic marijuana known as Spice, has led to the investigation of 700 Marines and Navy sailors this year — up from 29 two years ago. The Air Force has punished 497 airmen so far this year alone as well, The Associated Press reported.

"You can just imagine the work that we do in a military environment," said Mark Ridley, deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, told the AP, adding that the military has a zero tolerance policy for drugs.

Spice can make users paranoid, hallucinate, suicidal and can cause long bouts of psychosis, among other symptoms.

It's also been increasingly popular to mainstream drug users.

Much like “bath salts,” another dangerous new drug, Spice was available legally in some states until this year.

In March, the Drug Enforcement Administration banned it for at least a year after health officials warned it was sending more people to the hospital with strange symptoms.

"People are going to emergency rooms because of Spice," Tamar Wilson, staff attorney with the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, told the Denver Post in February. "This is not a marijuana substitute, though that may be why people initially try it. Young people are getting it and bringing it to schools. We realized it really is a significant problem."

With News Wire Services

Read more:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Muslims Mad at NYPD to Boycott Mayor's Breakfast

Activists upset at police efforts to spy on Muslims plan to skip Mayor Michael Bloomberg's annual year-end interfaith breakfast, saying Bloomberg shouldn't be defending the tactics. (Dec. 29)

The Myth of Taino Survival in the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean

by Gabriel Haslip-Viera (December 6, 2011)

In recent years, a small but growing number of Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Dominicans have adopted an exclusive indigenous or Taíno ethnicity. They have done so despite evidence showing that pure blooded Native Americans became extinct in the western Caribbean by the early decades of the seventeenth century, if not earlier.

These individuals have also played fast and loose with concepts of race and ethnicity. They have done so with words and phrases such as “extinction” and “indigenous survival” to justify their claims.

In the early part of the last decade, Puerto Rico’s news media made a big deal of studies that showed that 61% of Puerto Ricans had a trace or a small amount of indigenous DNA dating back to the sixteenth century, passed exclusively through a single female line of ancestry in an individual’s family tree (the mother’s line). This finding was used and abused in an exaggerated, self-serving manner by would-be later day Taínos and their advocates as evidence supporting their claims for an exclusive indigenous pedigree.

However, another study was largely ignored at the time (and since). It that showed that 70% of Puerto Ricans had European DNA, along with 20% who had African DNA and only 10% who had Amerindian DA – this time passed through a single male line in the individual’s family tree (the father’s line).

As it turned out, these studies, when considered together in a sober manner, provide actual evidence for what had been concluded all along by scientists, social scientists and historians – Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans have been and are persons of genetically mixed backgrounds. Eventually, these studies were also criticized for their very limited utility because of two characteristics. First is their focus on distant ancestry. Second, their focus on single male and female lineages that ignore thousands of other males and females who contributed genetic material to an individual’s family tree during the past 500 years.

Ongoing research since the last decade undercuts claims for an exclusive indigenous pedigree by would-be later day Taínos and their supporters. So called “autosomal” or “admixture tests” show that Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans are persons of mixed ethnic background – mostly European and African. with significantly smaller percentages of the indigenous and others. These studies have also been criticized for their limited utility, but they have also been judged to be more reliable than studies that focus on distant ancestry and on single male and female lines of ancestry (See table and sources below).

Claims have been made by would-be Taínos and their supporters that substantial numbers of Taínos fled into the mountainous interior regions of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and Cuba in the sixteenth century and remained biologically pure in isolation of Spanish colonial society in the centuries that followed. These claims have not been demonstrated. On the contrary, the genetic and historical evidence shows that surviving Taínos were joined by impoverished Europeans, runaway African slaves and others to form the mixed Jibaro, Guajiro, and Cibaeño peasant populations of rural interior Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and Cuba in the centuries after 1550 or 1600. The claim by Anthony Castanha (as reported in a previous NiLP Network posting) that the Puerto Rican Jibaro is Native American is, therefore, patently absurd.

It also needs to be said that the genetic make-up of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans has little or no connection to the way race and ethnicity are socially constructed at the present time in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and its Diaspora. The traditionally crude and simplistic Eurocentric concepts of race and ethnicity and their connected patterns of prejudice and discrimination, aimed mostly at persons defined as black or mulatto, continue to prevail among Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Dominicans. This has occurred despite efforts to promote a “rainbow” model of race mixture.

These concepts have also been adopted by the later day Taínos to justify their claims for a pure indigenous pedigree. This is, in part, an attempt to separate them from persons of African background and from Europeans – especially Spaniards – who they see as colonial oppressors whose contributions to society and culture is to be ignored or rejected in the articulation of their identity.

Establishment's Bloomberg Successor Interruption

The Establishment's Bloomberg Successor Interruption

Murdoch is not going along with the NYT, Bloomberg and establishment choice to become the next mayor. Post calls Quinn “serial aider-and-abetter of council chiselers and cheats”

Coming A Cuomo Puppet Mayoral Candidate

Quinn’s pork-barrel polka(NYP) The mayoral candidate speaker funneled $1.2 million in city funds from 2002 to 2009 to multiple fake non-profits he secretly controlled, while directing the bulk of the cash to salaries for his girlfriend and relatives. She also also gave ex councilman *It Looks like the pro Cuomo NYP is attacking Bloomberg's Puppet Candidate and Clearing the Way for A Cuomo puppet candidate.

Ex-Councilman Miguel Martinez currently in jail $106,000 for a non profit in which he got a $40,000 kick back. Quinn gave Hiram Monserrate $300,000 for his Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment. According to newspaper reports Monserrate use $109,000 to illegally fund a failed 2006 Senate campaign. The executive director of the Latino Initiative was Julissa Ferreras his top aide and current councilwoman.

Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx) is reportedly the target of a Department of Investigation probe after directing funds to SBCC Management, a nonprofit run by her nephew. He was convicted of embezzling $200,000 — some of which went to the campaign of Arroyo’s daughter, Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo.

The NYP Leaves Out for the Second Time the $$$ Quinn Gave Lopez

Quinn is also funds another crook. Vito Lopez’s non profit political machine Bushwick Senior Citizen Center is collecting a whopping $607,000 from the Council’s Brooklyn delegation and members Erik Martin-Dilan, Domenic Recchia, Elizabeth Crowley and Stephen Levin. Lopez like Seabrook is under federal investigation for a host of crimes. Lopez also just received $845,000 for his non profit machine from Cuomo's economic development grants.

Murdoch Woods the NYT Dumb Lie... Revenge for Times Coverage of the Hacking Investigation?

NYP resurrects its favorite photo of Sulzberger w/ a shiner
Michael Roston (Twitter)
Dear - I'm young by NYT standards, and I'm concerned about our pensions

Quinn's Crime Family Known As the City Council Also Funds Boss Vito Lopez

Quinn the Slush Fund Queen

Shady Seabrook can hand out 350G (NYP) Indicted City Councilman Larry Seabrook will still be allowed to distribute more than $350,000 in “member item” funds to local groups next year — even though he’s under federal indictment for plundering those very same funds and faces a retrial. Seabrook is charged with steering $1 million to nonprofits secretly under his control, with much of it ending up in the pockets of his girlfriend, brother, sisters and nephews. * Indicted NYC councilman to get another $350,000(WSJ)

Quinn's Crime Family Known As the City Council Also Funds Boss Vito Lopez

Quinn is also funds another crook. Vito Lopez’s non profit political machine Bushwick Senior Citizen Center is collecting a whopping $607,000 from the Council’s Brooklyn delegation and members Erik Martin-Dilan, Domenic Recchia, Elizabeth Crowley and Stephen Levin. Lopez like Seabrook is under federal investigation for a host of crimes. Lopez also just received $845,000 for his non profit machine from Cuomo's economic development grants.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Espada in new ethics tangle

Espada in new ethics tangle (TU) The state’s legislative ethics panel found in its final investigation that ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. put his uncle on the state payroll, which could result in another criminal charge* Espada’s Family Ties(YNN)

Final act of outgoing ethics panel includes allegation he broke law by hiring uncle
Published 11:45 p.m., Monday, December 26, 2011
  • Fformer state senator Pedro Espada Jr. speaks at a rally in Albany, N.Y. in this 2010 file photo. (AP Photo archive/Mike Groll) Photo: Mike Groll / AP2010
    Former state senator Pedro Espada Jr. speaks at a rally in Albany, N.Y. in this 2010 file photo. (AP Photo archive/Mike Groll)
  • ALBANY — More trouble for Pedro Espada Jr.: He could face another criminal charge for putting his uncle on the state payroll.

    The Legislative Ethics Commission quietly issued a notice alleging the ex-senator violated the law by hiring his uncle, Juan Feliciano Jr., as an $80,000-a-year "special assistant" when he last held office in 2009-10. The notice, published with no announcement on the commission's website Dec. 9, alleges two violations of the state's Public Officers Law, each punishable by a fine of up to $40,000 or, if the commission so votes, referred for prosecution as a criminal misdemeanor.

    It's the latest trouble for Espada, who lost a primary last year amid questions of corruption.

    The Bronx Democrat is under federal indictment for allegedly embezzling money from the Soundview Health Network, which he founded. State Health Department officials are working to kick Soundview out of the Medicaid program, which would essentially cause it to shut its doors.

    Espada also regularly failed to report campaign finance statements to the Board of Elections. Questions abound as to whether he ever lived in the Bronx district he was elected to represent rather than in a separate house in tony Mamaroneck. He lost the 2010 Democratic primary to Sen. Gustavo Rivera.

    Espada has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, denouncing the charges as politically motivated. Neither he nor his attorney, Susan Necheles, returned calls seeking comment Monday.

    Espada has not pushed for a hearing into the matter, according to Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who co-chairs the commission.

    The notice says Espada lied about whether Feliciano, who was often referred to as "Uncle John" around the Capitol, was actually his uncle. The state Public Officers Law says a legislator may not "participate in any decision to hire, promote, discipline or discharge a relative for any compensated position at, for or within any state agency, public authority or the Legislature." The law defines "relative" as "any person living in the same household as the individual and any person who is a direct descendant of that individual's grandparents or the spouse of such descendant."

    A lawsuit filed in April 2010 by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo asserted Feliciano was Espada's blood uncle and also alleged Espada improperly billed personal expenses — including $20,000 in sushi delivered to the Mamaroneck house — to Soundview. The commission then began its investigation, obtaining sworn testimony about Espada's family tree from Victor Feliciano, another uncle. Espada did not respond to inquiries from the commission, the notice says.

    This will be the last investigation undertaken by the Legislative Ethics Commission, according to O'Donnell. An ethics bill signed this past summer puts ethics investigations for both the legislative and executive branches in the hands of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The Legislative Ethics Commission will continue, but its job will be to recommend punishments related to any alleged offenses.

    "We had been investigating for a very long time, and we wanted to close that investigation out," O'Donnell said.

    The new body, known as JCOPE, was constituted Dec. 12 and met in person for the first time on Dec. 20. Its chairwoman, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, said it had a "tremendous amount of work" on its plate.

    One task through which the new body could quickly imprint itself on the state's political culture involves previous decisions by the Commission on Public Integrity, which regulated executive branch staffers and lobbyists. Under the new law, JCOPE's 14 commissioners must examine all previous opinions and reject or change them within a year. They will likely examine and clarify exactly what gifts are permissible under the new law.

    "It's a very important job," said Karl Sleight, who was an aide to the now-defunct Ethics Commission. "Massive changes in a body of law that has evolved over several decades would probably not be healthy, but there's always room for improvement."

    JCOPE had a bumpy start, as questions swirled about some of its commissioners and DiFiore's decision to conduct the majority of the Dec. 20 meeting in private. They were advised there by Barry Ginsberg, executive director of the now-defunct Commission on Public Integrity, which JCOPE supplanted. Ginsberg has resigned.

    But his involvement with the new body, and his presence in the private session, has drawn criticism from David Grandeau, a former aide to the now-defunct Temporary Commission on State Lobbying.

    "You don't give an arsonist your barbecue," he said Dec. 20.

    Grandeau filed a formal letter complaint with JCOPE on Friday, asking for an investigation into Ginsberg's recent activities; Grandeau has long sniped at Ginsberg. DiFiore's spokesman, Lucian Chalfen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Reach Vielkind at 454-5081 or

Monday, December 26, 2011

New York Senate's ‘Four Amigos’ down to just 1 Only Ruben Diaz Sr. remains

Juan Gonzalez

Originally Published: Tuesday, December 20 2011, 9:53 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 20 2011, 9:53 PM

Julia Xanthos/Daily News

New York State senators Ruben Diaz Jr. (left) with Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada and Carl Kruger in 2009.

W ith Brooklyn Sen. Carl Kruger’s guilty plea on federal bribery charges and his resignation from the Senate, only one of the Four Amigos is still standing.

Three years ago, the tiny band of Democratic senators startled the political world by launching a revolt against their own party leadership.

They dubbed themselves the “Four Amigos,” because three of the four were Latino.

Their cunning rebellion came just when Democrats had gained their first slim majority in the senate in more than 30 years. It ended up paralyzing state government for several chaotic weeks.

Two of the four, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, then jumped to vote with the Republicans in June 2009 and briefly give them a majority. The two openly plotted with the other amigos, Kruger and Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, in a naked attempt to become Albany kingmakers.

Espada became senate president pro tem and Kruger chair of the powerful finance committee.

The Democratic majority and our state’s accidental governor, David Paterson, both turned into laughingstocks for their inability to keep discipline in their ranks.

“What was supposed to be a new day for the Democrats, turned out to be a dark day, and the cloud never cleared up for us,” Sen. Bill Perkins said as he recalled that period.

Who can forget that front page photo in the Daily News of Espada and Monserrate, arrogant smiles plastered on their faces, as they sat in a field box during a Yankee Stadium game in the midst of the crisis?

A year later, Espada was indicted for allegedly siphoning $500,000 in government funds from the Soundview Health Center that he founded. Among the federal charges: Espada used a Soundview corporate credit card to pay for tickets to Yankees games and Broadway shows.

Espada, who is awaiting trial in Brooklyn federal court, lost a reelection bid in 2010.

By then, Monserrate had already been expelled from the Senate after a conviction on a misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend.

The only Amigo remaining in the senate is the guy who came up with the name — Ruben Diaz.

So how does Diaz, a Pentecostal reverend, feel now that his one-time rebel group has been decimated?

“My friends are still my friends, no matter what personal defects they have,” he said. “I pray for them that they will be all right.”

Diaz insists the others were targeted because they showed too much independence from the state’s political elite.

Similar outrage, he notes, has not been marshaled against a group of four centrist Democrats that formed this year in the senate and allied itself with the Republican majority.

That group, led by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, calls itself the Independent Democratic Conference. Each member was rewarded by the Republican majority with plum committee chairmanships.

“We were called corrupt, opportunists, socialist,” Diaz said. “Klein and his group copied us, and they’re called smart politicians.”

But those familiar with Espada, Monserrate and Kruger, know this: when you rebel against the mud in Albany, you had better be clean.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Court Docs Confirm O'Reilly's Crusade Against Cuckolding Cop

By John Cook

Court Docs Confirm O'Reilly's Crusade Against Cuckolding Cop The Nassau County Police Department has acknowledged in a court filing that Bill O'Reilly played a role in an internal affairs investigation into an NCPD detective, confirming a key element of Gawker's exclusive story last August detailing how the Fox News blowhard tried to have the cop who was dating his wife investigated by his own police department.

In August, Gawker reported that the NCPD launched an internal affairs unit (IAU) investigation into an unnamed detective at the behest of O'Reilly, who believed that the detective was romantically involved with his wife Maureen McPhilmy O'Reilly. According to my source, O'Reilly asked then-commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, who is a personal friend, to look into the detective and "tell [him] to back off." The department's internal affairs unit subsequently launched an inquiry—aided by two private investigators hired by O'Reilly—into the detective for no reason other than his alleged dalliance with McPhilmy. At the time, my source said, O'Reilly was believed to be mulling a major donation to the nonprofit Nassau County Police Department Foundation, which is financing the construction of planned $48 million police training facility.

"These internal affairs cops were on the case at the behest of Mulvey in order to get O'Reilly's funds," the source said at the time. The NCPD refused to confirm or deny the story's particulars, and Fox News didn't comment.

Court Docs Confirm O'Reilly's Crusade Against Cuckolding CopClick to enlarge

But now the NCPD has been compelled to admit in court that O'Reilly was indeed involved in an internal affairs investigation into one of its detectives. After the NCPD denied my Freedom of Information Law request and subsequent appeal seeking records related to O'Reilly, I filed a FOIL petition in Nassau County Supreme Court seeking to force the department to hand them over. (I initially filed the petition acting as my own attorney; a New York Civil Liberties Union attorney has since agreed to take the case.)

Earlier this month, the NCPD's attorney responded to the petition by acknowledging that the records I sought—including any correspondence to or from O'Reilly or his wife, logs of calls to or from O'Reilly or his wife, and records of police visits to O'Reilly's or McPhilmy's homes—are "records of an Internal Affairs Investigation ('IAI')...that was conducted on a detective in the Nassau County Police Department. This investigation involved alleged violations of the rules and regulations of the Nassau County Police Department as well as allegations of misconduct."

The NCPD also filed a sworn declaration from Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan stating, "I am familiar with the IAU investigation which is the subject of [Gawker's] request. An IAU investigation of a Nassau County police detective was undertaken in this matter. The investigation was an internal administrative investigation.... [T]here was no allegation of criminality on the part of the investigated detective."

The NCPD is arguing that the O'Reilly records are part of an internal affairs unit investigation file because New York law exempts internal affairs files from the Freedom of Information Law under certain circumstances. It is claiming that even correspondence with O'Reilly that may have predated the launch of the investigation is exempt because "any correspondence, which [Gawker] also seeks, involving the issues in the IAI would have necessarily become part of the resultant [internal affairs report]." You can read the filings, including Flanagan's declaration, here.

Neither the NCPD nor Fox News responded to my invitations to comment on what "issues," precisely, the investigation dealt with.

O'Reilly himself had only a brief comment when I asked him about his relationship with the NCPD in person, at a book signing at a Long Island Barnes & Noble not far from his Manhasset, N.Y., home Monday night. As you can see from the video above, he said only "This guy has to leave" to his security guards, who promptly ejected me from the event. When I asked the guards for the copy of Killing Lincoln that I purchased to gain access to the event, and which I had already handed to O'Reilly to be signed, O'Reilly said, "Don't give him the book." He wasn't wearing a wedding ring.

Court Docs Confirm O'Reilly's Crusade Against Cuckolding CopGawker's Adrian Chen, however, who was in line with me at the event shooting the video, managed to get his own copy of the error-riddled tome signed. O'Reilly and his guards didn't realize that Adrian was with me, so he was able to get up to O'Reilly's table and ask what the commotion was all about. "I have no idea," O'Reilly told him.

Look out for an upcoming Gawker contest with a signed copy of Killing Lincoln as the prize.

I've asked Fox News for a replacement of my stolen copy. No response yet.

[Photo via Getty Images; video shot by Adrian Chen and edited by Matt Toder]

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NYT Covered Krugger Indictment and Bribe Payment to Developer Bruce Rattner Company

Did the NYT Cover the Kruger Plea As A Gay Soap Opera to Protect Developer Rattner Who Gained State $$$ From the Ex-Senators Bribes

"Baby Talk" From NYT: "As Mr. Kruger read his allocution and broke down, wiping away tears, his emotion seemed to spread to Michael Turano, who held his eyes and wiped away his own tears. . . The people said that the senator wanted to spare his companion the rigors of a high-profile trial and the possibility of a much higher sentence, but that the decision was a complex one and that he chose to plead for other reasons as well. . .

The Baby Talk Plea Coverage
The FBI agent said that a wiretap, which captured the men in nearly daily contact, revealed that they “sometimes spoke to one another in baby talk.. Beside him, separated by one of Mr. Kruger’s lawyers, sat the gynecologist who court papers suggested was the senator’s intimate companion; he, too, would weep uncontrollably as he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge a few minutes later. . . ” "Tearful Senator Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes(NYT)

NYT Covered Krugger Indictment and Bribe Payment to Developer Bruce Rattner Company

NYT March 10, 2010
Also highlighted in the criminal complaint was “a significant real estate development firm,” identified as “Real Estate Developer No. 1,” that was “spearheading an over $4 billion, multiyear, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.”
The description left little doubt that the firm was Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre residential and retail complex in Brooklyn that includes a new home for the Nets.. . . The complaint accused Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, of taking at least $1 million in bribes in exchange for help on state matters, including bribes from Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, and other clients. The complaint said the company’s “vice president of governmental affairs and public relations” — Bruce R. Bender has that role at Forest City Ratner — had asked Mr. Kruger last December for state money for three projects: $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which is to be replaced as part of the Atlantic Yards project; $2 million for a retail development in the Mill Basin neighborhood of Brooklyn; and $4 million for the renovation of the skating rink in Prospect Park, a public project.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Obama: Senate Plan 'Only Viable Way'

President Barack Obama says a bipartisan compromise reached by the Senate is the 'only viable way' to prevent a tax increase on Jan. 1. (Dec. 20)

The New York Times

Rashbaum & Weiser report: “State Senator Carl Kruger was expected to plead guilty on Tuesday to federal corruption charges that he accepted at least $1 million in bribes to finance a lavish lifestyle, including a large home in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, where he lived with two gynecologist brothers and their mother, according to several people briefed on the case.”

Noah Rosenberg writes: “A Republican political consultant who was convicted of stealing campaign funds from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg admitted his guilt at his sentencing hearing on Monday, but could not avoid a prison sentence.”

Richard Perez-Pena reports: “The donor whose $350 million gift will be critical in building Cornell University’s new high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder, Charles F. Feeney, is a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through the Duty Free Shoppers Group.”

Matt Flegenheimer writes about how Cornell’s new campus could change Roosevelt Island.

“Gotham” columnist Michael Powell contemplates the Living Wage Bill.

Why Is the NYPD After Me?

Nicholas K. Peart, 23, has been stopped and frisked by New York City police officers at least five times, 12/16/11. (photo: Ashley Gilbertson/NYT)
Nicholas K. Peart, 23, has been stopped and frisked by New York City police officers at least five times, 12/16/11. (photo: Ashley Gilbertson/NYT)

By Nicholas K. Peart, The New York Times

19 December 11

hen I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister's house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, "Get on the ground!"

I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground - with a gun pointed at me. I couldn't see what was happening but I could feel a policeman's hand reach into my pocket and remove my wallet. Apparently he looked through and found the ID I kept there. "Happy Birthday," he said sarcastically. The officers questioned my cousin and friend, asked what they were doing in town, and then said goodnight and left us on the sidewalk.

Less than two years later, in the spring of 2008, N.Y.P.D. officers stopped and frisked me, again. And for no apparent reason. This time I was leaving my grandmother's home in Flatbush, Brooklyn; a squad car passed me as I walked down East 49th Street to the bus stop. The car backed up. Three officers jumped out. Not again. The officers ordered me to stand, hands against a garage door, fished my wallet out of my pocket and looked at my ID. Then they let me go.

I was stopped again in September of 2010. This time I was just walking home from the gym. It was the same routine: I was stopped, frisked, searched, ID'd and let go.

These experiences changed the way I felt about the police. After the third incident I worried when police cars drove by; I was afraid I would be stopped and searched or that something worse would happen. I dress better if I go downtown. I don't hang out with friends outside my neighborhood in Harlem as much as I used to. Essentially, I incorporated into my daily life the sense that I might find myself up against a wall or on the ground with an officer's gun at my head. For a black man in his 20s like me, it's just a fact of life in New York.

Here are a few other facts: last year, the N.Y.P.D. recorded more than 600,000 stops; 84 percent of those stopped were blacks or Latinos. Police are far more likely to use force when stopping blacks or Latinos than whites. In half the stops police cite the vague "furtive movements" as the reason for the stop. Maybe black and brown people just look more furtive, whatever that means. These stops are part of a larger, more widespread problem - a racially discriminatory system of stop-and-frisk in the N.Y.P.D. The police use the excuse that they're fighting crime to continue the practice, but no one has ever actually proved that it reduces crime or makes the city safer. Those of us who live in the neighborhoods where stop-and-frisks are a basic fact of daily life don't feel safer as a result.

We need change. When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them - distrust, alienation and more crime.

Last May, I was outside my apartment building on my way to the store when two police officers jumped out of an unmarked car and told me to stop and put my hands up against the wall. I complied. Without my permission, they removed my cellphone from my hand, and one of the officers reached into my pockets, and removed my wallet and keys. He looked through my wallet, then handcuffed me. The officers wanted to know if I had just come out of a particular building. No, I told them, I lived next door.

One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key. My 18-year-old sister was inside with two of our younger siblings; later she told me she had no idea why the police were trying to get into our apartment and was terrified. She tried to call me, but because they had confiscated my phone, I couldn't answer.

Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed. The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks. I asked why they were searching me, and he told me someone in my building complained that a person they believed fit my description had been ringing their bell. After the other officer returned from inside my apartment building, they opened the door to the police car, told me to get out, removed the handcuffs and simply drove off. I was deeply shaken.

For young people in my neighborhood, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage. We expect the police to jump us at any moment. We know the rules: don't run and don't try to explain, because speaking up for yourself might get you arrested or worse. And we all feel the same way - degraded, harassed, violated and criminalized because we're black or Latino. Have I been stopped more than the average young black person? I don't know, but I look like a zillion other people on the street. And we're all just trying to live our lives.

As a teenager, I was quiet and kept to myself. I'm about to graduate from the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and I have a stronger sense of myself after getting involved with the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a neighborhood organization in Harlem. We educate young people about their rights when they're stopped by the police and how to stay safe in those interactions. I have talked to dozens of young people who have had experiences like mine. And I know firsthand how much it messes with you. Because of them, I'm doing what I can to help change things and am acting as a witness in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights to stop the police from racially profiling and harassing black and brown people in New York.

It feels like an important thing to be part of a community of hundreds of thousands of people who are wrongfully stopped on their way to work, school, church or shopping, and are patted down or worse by the police though they carry no weapon; and searched for no reason other than the color of their skin. I hope police practices will change and that when I have children I won't need to pass along my mother's advice.