Category Archives: NYC Politics

Wednesday News Items


Things are getting busy around here. The end of the semester is always that way. Here a few news items to point your attention to:

It appears the Mumbai terrorists had some logistical support from a U.S. citizen. David Headley, the son of Pakistani diplomat, “changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 so he could hide his Muslim and Pakistani identity and slip more easily into his American businessman cover story while scoping out targets.”  He also served as a DEA informant after getting busted for importing two kilograms of heroin from Pakistan. Read more here, here and here.

Continuing on the counter-terrorism theme, a senior al-Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan by a Predator drone strike. Abdirizaq Abdi Saleh aka Saleh al-Somali was the number three leader of al-Qaeda after Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Nice shooting!

In other South Asian news, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is in turmoil due to recent decision by the national government to allow part of the territory to secede and form the new state of Telangana.

In Cuba, a U.S. contractor who was “distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications devices”  has been detained by the authorities. Sylvia Longmire reports, “[t] uunidentified contractor works for Development Alternatives Inc., a development group based in Bethesda, Maryland.” Who, or what, is Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI)? According to their website:

DAI has worked in 150 developing and transition countries, providing comprehensive development solutions in areas including crisis mitigation and recovery, democratic governance and public sector management, agriculture and agribusiness, private sector development and financial services, economics and trade, HIV/AIDS, avian influenza control, and water and natural resources management. Clients include international development agencies, international lending institutions, private corporations and philanthropies, and host-country governments.

More updates will be provided as more information is available.

Moving to the United States, district judge Nina Gershon has decided in favor of poverty pimps community organization, ACORN, by ruling the Congress acted in an unconstitutional manner in singling out the group. I’m not an expert in Constitutional Law, but I know it is the function of the legislative branch, not the judiciary, to decide how our tax dollars are spent. More here and here.

My last item is from NYC where our resident Nehru suited infantile leftist Charles Barron has struck again. This time at a City University of New York groundbreaking he was not invited to (h/t Gothamist):

After getting into a public squabble with a CUNY trustee at a groundbreaking event on Tuesday, City Councilman Charles Barron wants him out. According to the Daily News, the controversial Council member told an audience at Medgar Evers College (a CUNY school), “The Board of Trustees has to change… This is a racist, rednecked right-winger who’s sitting on the Board of Trustees. Make sure you write a letter and say he must be removed.”

This fool wants to be president of the NYC city council.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to be Tried in NYC, Lynne Stewart Off to Jail and Other News


[KSM: Coming soon to a NYC courthouse near you]

Attorney General Holder announced he is bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) from Guantanamo to NYC to face a criminal trial instead of allowing his case to continue in front of military tribunal. Holder claims the courts have a better chance of convicting KSM than the tribunals, which is crazy given the defendant was prepared to plead guilty and said he wants to receive the death penalty. Holder also thinks the criminal court system will move at a faster pace.

Conservative critics of Holder’s decision point to the length and delays in the Jose Padilla case as well as the real possibility that much of the evidence pointing to KSM’s will be thrown out due to the methods used to extract that evidence, in particular water boarding. They are also concerned a criminal trial will lead to important intelligence falling into the hands of Islamist extremists.

One defense attorney who knows these extremists intimately is Lynne Stewart. Stewart was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail for passing information for her client, Omar Abdel Rahman.

Another defense attorney who is finding himself in the hot seat is Paul Bergrin. Better known for his role in Abu Ghraib trials, Bergrin is being tried in a New Jersey court for the murder of a witness and informant who was preparing to testify against one of his clients. Bergrin is “also accused of trying to hire a Chicago hit man to kill a witness in another federal drug case. The assassin recorded their conversations and is cooperating in the case, prosecutors said.” The federal prosecutor added prostitution, drug and bribery charges earlier this month. Given his harsh condemnation of the Bush administration, the Bergrin case is viewed in some (loony left) quarters as an attempt to silence the voice of dissent.

In other news, I was contacted by a reporter in the Bay Area for a story he is writing on the political cult, NATLFED. He wanted to ask me a few questions about the organization regarding recruitment and other matters. At first I was flattered but after doing a bit of searching on the Internet I became concerned that the journalist was less interested in writing a serious critical piece than producing a snarky article about kooky bay area left-wing organizations. That’s all well and good but he doesn’t require me for that.

Another thing I noticed after typing out my answers to his questions was I may as well post some of that information here at my blog. So expect another post on NATLFED a few weeks after his article is published. I will make sure to post a link to his piece as well. I am very interested in reading it and hope I am wrong about my assumptions.

The blog, Spanish Security World added me to their blogroll and I was glad to reciprocate.

Posted RKL’s “It’s a Beautiful Feeling!” 7″ and Anthrax’s “Capitalism is Cannibalism” 7″ at Roland’s new music blog. Next post, Rudimentary Peni‘s “EPs of RP”.

Bill Jones has finally posted some of the videos he did for mutant trumpeter Ben Neill on Youtube. The music is from Ben Neill’s Automotive album. They take a while so be patient.

“Bug Funk”

When I heard this song, I thought a woman was singing. I can’t believe a man is:

“Nite Nite” (lyrics and vocals by Andrew Montgomery)

New York, Nepotism, and Caroline Kennedy



I am frankly nauseated that Caroline Kennedy may be our (New York’s) next senator. Maybe I should not be so upset. After all, if Democrats can elect a president with no executive experience, why not appoint a senator who lacks legislative experience?

Roland Dodds (But I am a Liberal!) expresses opinions quite close to my own:

There are few things that disgust me like the reverence many Americans hold for the Kennedy household. I see nothing inherently wrong with claiming JFK was a good President (an average President in my assessment), or that liberals may feel Bobby Kennedy would have been an excellent president if he were not assassinated (an unscientific conjecture, but I am willing to let it slide), but to extend this benevolence to anyone associated with the family’s lineage is the most appalling form of nepotism Democrats readily participate in.

We have yet another Kennedy (this time it’s Caroline) looking to capitalize on her namesake, and she looks posed to take Clinton’s senate seat when she departs to be Obama’s Secretary of State.

The fact that she is even being considered for the position over qualified civil servants should disgust any American, but that doesn’t begin to repulse me. Forget that she has little experience doing anything of significance (let alone legislative experience), and that she has only been heavily involved in a number of duties that revolve around glorifying the family’s name (like standing as President of the JFK library). I can also excuse the reason she was brought into the political center stage: the Obama campaign wanted to incorporate the populace’s romanticism of America’s Camelot into electoral victory for their candidate. A shrewd but wretched political move, but so goes an American election.

Ross Douhat (The Atlantic) notes:

Caroline Kennedy is no doubt more prepared – in terms of her base of knowledge about national politics, her comfort with the ways of Washington, etc. – to be a United States Senator than Sarah Palin was to be Vice President. But if you consider where the two women started and stack their subsequent accomplishments against one another, Palin’s Alaskan career is roughly six times more impressive than Kennedy’s years as a high-minded Manhattan socialite and custodian of her family’s good name. That doesn’t mean that McCain was wise to pick Palin as his running mate. But if you think he wasn’t, then you should definitely hope that the Democratic Party of New York hunts a little longer through its ranks before handing a Senate seat to the editor of The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Eric Trager (Contentions) suggests city councilman John Liu is a better pick for the position:

Having represented parts of northeast Queens since 2002, Liu would be an intriguing choice for a number of reasons. First, as chair of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation, Liu would bring appropriate experience for working with the incoming Obama administration on improving domestic infrastructure. Second, Liu has demonstrated laudable political independence. In October, he was among the minority of councilmen who voted against extending term limits for city offices, including his own. Finally, having emigrated from Taiwan when he was five years old, Liu would be the first Asian-American to serve in a statewide office. His appointment would therefore widen political opportunities for one of New York’s largest – and often overlooked – minority groups.

Most importantly, putting Liu on the “short list” of possible Senate replacements would delay plans for the next Kennedy coronation. It would force Governor Paterson to choose between a respected councilman who has been hard at work serving his constituents for the past six years, and a presidential daughter who has conspicuously dropped “Schlossberg” from her last name.

Councilman Liu is an excellent choice. He had my respect when I was living in Queens and it has only increased over time. I really appreciated the way he stood up to Mayor Bloomberg and many of his fellow council members regarding term limits.

If you happen to live in New York (even if you don’t) and would like to express your opinion contact Governor Patterson:

Phone (518) 474-8390

To email the governor click here.

More on Jewish Voting Patterns in Election 2008


[H/t to A.L. and Sultan Knish]

As I’ve written elsewhere, talk of the “Jewish community” or the “Jewish vote” is misguided as there are many Jewish communities and these various communities have different voting patterns. For example, Reform Jews generally vote Democratic while the Orthodox tend to vote Republican.

Nevertheless, polls are one way of measuring voter preference. In a previous post I mentioned a (flawed) poll that had Jews voting for McCain over Obama 54 percent to 32 percent. Here are some more recent poll results (article from the JPost):

Barack Obama leads John McCain by 27 points among Jewish voters, according to a new survey.

Obama leads 57 percent to 30% among those polled in the American Jewish Committee’s 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, with 13% undecided, but he significantly trails the Jewish vote for recent Democratic presidential candidates.

By contrast, John Kerry received 76% of the Jewish vote four years ago against George W. Bush, and in the three prior presidential elections, Democrats won 78% to 80% of Jewish votes. The 2004 AJC survey, taken three weeks earlier in that campaign than this year, found Kerry leading 69% to 24%.

The poll by survey research organization Synovate of 914 self-identifying Jewish respondents, selected from Synovate’s consumer mail panel, was conducted by telephone September 8-21. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

McCain enjoyed a 78% to 13% lead among Orthodox Jews, but Obama won easily among all other Jewish groups: Conservatives, 59% to 26%; Reform, 62% to 27%; and those calling themselves “just Jewish,” 61% to 26%.

Sultan Knish has this to add:

Jews do vote fairly predictably but the most predictable percentage of the Jewish vote breaks down into three categories, senior citizens who grew up with FDR or the memory of FDR and treat the Democratic party as a safety blanket against fascism and the depression, Jewish women for whom gender is highly important and are career oriented and thirdly an assimilated class of politically liberal yuppies with very little in the way of a Jewish identity…

McCain will however not make a great deal of inroads with the latter category of younger liberal yuppies because they are liberal first, followed by a catalog card of identities, with Jewish and American appearing on the list somewhere in the back or not at all. Which is why asking why they don’t vote following Jewish interests or Israel is pointless, because they really don’t consider themselves particularly Jewish. And really they aren’t.

I usually avoid denying a particular identity to people (Jewish, leftist, conservative, etc.), especially when they self-identify with that particular identity. For example, if someone identifies themselves as Jewish I don’t question that. But the Sultan is correct in pointing out the mushiness of this identity (and the concept of identity in general) as well as the notion that all of us are packages of an assortment of interrelated identities (religious, class, ethnic, political, nationality, gender, etc.). Which identity takes precedence? And can we ever truly disentangle these identities from each other?

Jews Now Favor McCain in New York, 54-32


[H/t to Roland (But I am a Liberal!) for bringing this post by John Podhoretz at Contentions to my attention. The sample size of the survey is way too small but I always suspected McCain would do as well as Reagan among Jewish voters, if not better.]

The Siena poll, one of the two key polls of New York state voters, has come out with its monthly snapshot of the presidential race in the Empire State. And it’s stunning. It is remarkable, though not eye-opening, that John McCain is now only 5 points behind Barack Obama, 46-41 – not shocking because polls have narrowed to similar margins in New Jersey. (It should be noted, however, that according to a Rasmussen poll released yesterday, Obama is leading in New York by 55-42.)

No, the shocking detail has to do with a wild, 35-point swing toward McCain among Jewish voters. Obama led among them by a margin of 50-37 in August. This month, McCain is actually leading Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 32 percent.

Siena polled 626 likely voters this month. Of those, according to Steve Greenberg, the spokesman for the Siena poll, 77 were Jews, or 12 percent of the sample. That is Siena’s best guess of the size of the Jewish vote in New York state in November. With a sample size that small, the margin of error for the Jewish voter sample is plus-or-minus 11 points.

That means the poll could be off by as many as 11 points in either direction — i.e., McCain could be leading by as little as 11 points or by as many as 33. (UPDATE: I got this wrong; this stat could also mean they’re tied or that McCain is more than 40 points ahead or anywhere in the middle. For a clarification on this point, click here.)

[read it all here]

Diplomatic Deadbeats in NYC


It’s been a problem for decades, deadbeat diplomats who refuse to pay their parking violations and other fines. The total bill for these deadbeats now stands at $75 million. Another problem is non-payment of property taxes. The NYC Department of Finance identifies Egypt and Kuwait as the worst culprits, owing more than $3 million in unpaid parking tickets. Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) is fed up and not going to take it anymore. He’s calling for the city to tow the cars of deadbeat diplomats and shut off water and power to their buildings until they pay their fines.

Newsday reports:

To help ensure the payment of parking fines, the State Department can revoke consular license plates and withhold foreign aid for the amount the city is owed. In September 2002, it opted to strip 30 nations of 185 plates. Agency officials yesterday did not return a call seeking comment.

From AM New York:

India, Mongolia, and the Philippines were the main diplomatic deadbeats in paying property tax. Last year, the city went to the U.S. Supreme Court over property taxes owed by Mongolia and India. The justices ruled that foreign nations are not immune to paying all real estate taxes.

Finally a local politician who is looking out for the best interests of the city.

Support Bill Providing NY Farmworkers the Right to Overtime and a Weekly Day of Rest


[h/t to A.L. As most of you know, I am a strong supporter of labor rights. I also am a major foodie and recognize the people who grow and pick our fruits and vegetables do backbreaking and necessary work. They deserve better.]

The Justice for Farmworkers Campaign is very close to landmark legislation providing overtime coverage for New York farmworkers. Your support in the closing moments of the legislative session is critical. Please broadcast widely the e-mail announcement and phone script below (also attached) and take immediate action!

If you or your organization would rather fax a message, see the attached memo and feel free to use as much of our language as you like. The fax number for Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s office is 518-426-6879.

Thank you for taking a moment to support an end to racist exclusions and a step toward justice in the fields.


Bill Providing Farmworkers the Right to Overtime and a Weekly Day of Rest

Call Today and All This Week!


The Justice for Farmworkers Campaign is on the brink of a major step toward the equal treatment of all New York workers. We really need your help to make it happen.

Seventy years ago, our elected representatives had the good wisdom to enact overtime protections that required work hours numbering greater than forty in a week to be compensated at one and one-half times the regular rate. Because southern legislators would not stand for putting African American workers on an equal footing with their white counterparts, however, farmworkers and domestic workers were excluded from overtime coverage. Since the New Deal, New York has perpetuated their exclusion from protections such as a day of rest per week.

We are urging the NYS Senate pass into law day of rest and overtime protections for farmworkers, as a step toward ending this shameful legacy of exclusion. Over many years, New York workers have come to expect a day of rest per week and overtime pay for hours worked beyond the forty-hour work week. With the passage of this bill, they will be able to approach farm work with that same expectation.

Please Call Today! 518-455-2800

If you do not know your senator, call Senate Majority Leader Bruno at 518-455-3191

When you get the operator, just ask for your Senator’s office. Ask for the Senator, but if he or she is not available ask for a staff person who handles legislation. Also, for those ambitious people wanting to do more than one call, or for people who don’t know their senator, here’s Senate Majority Leader Bruno’s #: 518-455-3191

Sample Script:

Hello, my name is [NAME] and I am calling from [YOUR CITY/AFFILIATION]

I wanted to call to ask you to support a bill that would provide day of rest and overtime protections to farmworkers. We must end these two shameful exclusions, which are rooted in racism and that deny basic rights to farmworkers. I understand there is an assembly bill number A11425-a, and I would like [SENATOR] to support a matching bill in the Senate.

Thank you for your time.

Islamist Front or Instrument of the State?


[Khalil Gibran, 1883-1931]

I was not planning on writing about the Islamist madrassa Khalil Gibran International Academy opening in Brooklyn this fall but it seems like I can’t open the morning newspaper or turn on the radio without hearing about it so here is my two cents. When news spread among conservative activists that the New York Department of Education was opening a small school in Brooklyn centered on Arabic language and cultural studies, they got on the phone and the Internet, contacted allies on talk radio and Blogs, and did an excellent job of getting their message out.

What is their message?

First, the school is a front for Islamists whose main purpose is indoctrinating students with a radical anti-American ideology. Activists from the Stop the Madrassa Coalition claimed Khalil Gibran ‘s principal, Dhabah “Debbie” Almontaser, was not a moderate and called for officials to investigate the school’s possible ties to terrorist organizations. Second, the school is a conflict of Church and Mosque divisions. Never mind that Khalil Gibran was a Christian. Their main point is if individuals in the Arabic-speaking communities want to start a school with private money, that would be fine, but not with public funds.

Outside of the conservative milieu, reaction and perception of the school was mixed. Secular liberals in support of a rigid division between Church and State tended to be most critical. Others, in light of the existence of tens of similar small public schools focusing on everything from the arts, social justice and sports, had no problem with it. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) thought it was a good idea. Interestingly, the school received a boost of support from mainstream Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League. But a large percentage of New Yorkers simply had not heard of the school.

That all changed after a group of students showed up at the school wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Intifada NYC.” After an initial lukewarm condemnation–coupled with her comment that the shirts provide “an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society”–Ms. Almontaser and the school came under increasing scrutiny. Almontaser subsequently claimed, “By minimizing the word’s historical associations I implied that I condone violence and threats of violence…That view is anathema to me and the very opposite of my life’s work.”

But it was too little, too late. Ms. Almontaser found her previous liberal support evaporating. UFT President Randi Weingarten issued a condemnation of Almontaser stating the intifada is “something that ought to be denounced, not explained away” and the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, said the “controversy” sparked by her remarks “threatened to destabilize the school.” With Department of Education and union support dwindling, mainstream Jewish organizations were the next to jump ship, noting that the term “intifada” has a very clear meaning and association with violence for most Jews. Almontaser ultimately resigned citing security concerns:

[The] intolerant and hateful tone has come to frighten some of the parents and incoming parents,” she wrote.”I have grown increasingly concerned that these few outsiders will disrupt the community of learning when the Academy opens its doors on September 4th. Therefore, I have decided to step aside to give the Academy and its dedicated staff the full opportunity to flourish without these unwarranted attacks.

The Stop the Madrassa Coalition welcomed her resignation. But their core concerns remain. While somewhat sympathetic to the claims of the conservative activists regarding the potential for radicalization at the school and in complete support with their calls for Almontaser’s ouster, I do not view public schools of this sort in a completely negative light. From a security perspective, it is preferable for the school to be public rather than private because the state has more control over the staff, curriculum and administration in a public system. Simply stated, public schools are instruments of the state. If this was a private school, the state would have much less control over what books the students were reading, the certification of teachers (or lack thereof) and all of the other matters that rightly concern conservatives. Second, a school that offers Arabic language and allows students to explore the complexities of that part of the world is a good thing. Aren’t conservatives constantly lamenting that our foreign service and intelligence services–not to mention our troops in Iraq–lack people with these basic skills?

In The New York Sun, Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn said:

[H]e is confident that Khalil Gibran will be an antidote to terrorism, not a perpetrator of it. “In the wake of both 9/11 and the perilous state of the world, with several wars moving all around us,” he said, “it’s I think a beautiful opportunity to bring students from a variety of backgrounds all together to learn about Arabic culture.” Rabbi Bachman also praised the opportunity for students of Arab origin to learn about American values in a public school.

Daniel Pipes also supports Arabic language schools, with certain stipulations:

America needs more Arabic speakers. In practice, however, Arabic-language instruction needs special scrutiny. The city, in other words, could take steps to make the KGIA acceptable by dispensing with the existing set of goals, fundamentally rethinking its mission, appointing a new advisory board, hiring new staff, and imposing the necessary educational and political controls.

I agree with Rabbi Bachman and Mr. Pipes. NYC has public schools that center on Chinese language and Asian culture and a new school emphasizing Spanish and Latin-American culture is opening soon. Given the diversity of this city a South Asian school in Jackson Heights, Queens is probably not far away. Is this the direction we are heading? A educational system that caters to a multitude of ethnic and national communities? And is that a great idea? My wife counters, “why not offer these languages and cultural studies options at the existing schools? It’s 2007, these kids don’t want to learn French and German.”