Saturday, January 31, 2009
Banking and Politics
As Old As the Republic
By Gary Tilzer
Many economists are now blaming the deregulation of the banking industry by congress as the cause of the nation’s economic crisis. It is important to understand that the intimate relationship between politics and banking policy is not new, nor is its economic influence now unique. Since the nation's beginnings banking regulations have been intimately connected to politics, and the politics of banking is a high stakes game not well understood by the public. It is clearly not understood by today's elected officials who have destroyed Wall Street and the economy of New York City. A review of New York's economic history and banking policy from 1784 to the Civil War clearly shows that banks and banking policy were central to the state's economic development (and closely entwined with politics). It also shows that intelligent banking policy can further economic development while bad policy inevitably causes economic havoc.
In New York City, the intimate relationship between banks and politics began when the Bank of New York was chartered in 1784. Founded by Alexander Hamilton, the bank was the only one in the City until 1799. Hamilton used the bank for his political ambitions as it furthered his Federalist Party and the conservative economic polices it espoused. Merchants who disagreed with Hamilton's political point of view ran the risk of having their loans called in at election time.
The Federalist chartering of the First Bank of the United States in 1791 had a profound effect on the economy. It also increased the influence of the wealthy in the politics of the 1790's. Just as important to NY was the chartering in 1799 of the Bank of Manhattan by Aaron Burr. It was the City's second major bank and a direct rival to the Bank of New York and its Federalist policies. The bank was chartered to bring water to the City, in an effort to reduce the perils of the Yellow Fever epidemics.
The Bank of Manhattan ultimately became instrumental in the rise of Tammany Hall as a political force and was also an important factor in the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800. In fact, Jefferson's election had the effect of breaking the Federalist's control of New York's commercial, financial and political institutions. The number of banks rose from 28 in 1800 to 89 in 1811. By 1816 it was up to 250. Since the only currency other than gold and silver was bank notes, a banking charter literally meant having a license to print money. The circulation of more notes from newly chartered banks enlarged the monetary supply, creating capital for an expanding economy - all of which was important to the City's economic growth. The capital for building the Erie Canal came from New York City's banks. In fact, the largest initial purchaser of Erie Bonds was the Bank for Saving of New York institutions. The state completion of the canal in 1825 was the watershed event in New York's rise as the world's premier financial center.
Nationally, banking policy had an even more profound effect on politics and the country than it did at the state level. Hamilton's First National Bank was rechartered as the Second Bank of the U.S. in 1816 by President Madison on the grounds that it was the only hope for restoring U.S. currency after the War of 1812. Both the First and Second Banks of the U.S. were private banks, privately owned and had exclusive rights to federal deposits, and thusly functioned like the Federal Reserve - controlling the money supply and the flow of credit. The Second Bank continued to push both conservative policy and politics.
President Andrew Jackson like all traditional Jeffersonian Democrats, opposed large, centrally controlled financial institutions. Thus Jackson and his supporters charged that the Second Bank was a tool of the moneyed aristocracy and was intent on oppressing working people. Jackson's veto of the Second Bank's recharter became a major issue in the 1832 election. Support from the working classes including Tammany Hall helped lead Jackson to re-election. Jackson's veto of the recharter and the subsequent withdrawal of federal deposits had broad repercussions. One effect was to shift the financial center of the country from Philadelphia to New York, where it remains to this day. A second and more far-reaching effect was to cause the Bank of the United States to contract the nation's money supply, causing widespread economic panic and a depression.
In contrast to federal banking policy, New York's policy was much more far-sighted and intelligent. The Erie Canal was financially successful beyond its most enthusiastic bankers' wildest expectations. The $7 million borrowed to build the canal was quickly repaid and shrewdly deposited, unlocking banks with a view to furthering economic development across the state. Additionally, in 1839, New York set up the Safety Deposit Fund which all state banks were forced to join. The fund insured depositors against bank failures and fund officials had the right to review the solvency of New York's Banks. This was the forerunner of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and generally of state and federal banking regulations and legislation - the subject of today's controversy. These state regulations played a prominent role in the state's rise as the nation's financial center and in the prosperity this city has enjoyed until now.
The history has broad implications for the current debate over banking regulations and debate over nationalizing the nation's banking system. The large amounts of money at stake, combined with the high cost of modern political campaigns, must also raise questions about the potential influence of bank money in politics. Banking policy is much too important to be left in the hands of bankers and politicians - it must be understood and debated by the community as a whole.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
On this edition of "Eyewitness News," John Johnson reported that the former governor had died at his office in Rockefeller Center. But there was a lot more to the story. (Via realagentofSHIELD on YouTube)
Thirty years ago Monday tonight, former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller died of a heart attack in Manhattan at the age of 70. The initial reports had the governor passing away at his office in Rockefeller Center, toiling away on a book about his modern art collection, one of Rocky's passions. But indeed, that was not the whole story. As the days progressed, a far more complicated and lurid picture emerged of the former vice president's final hours.
It turns out Rockefeller was not at his namesake building at all, but at his townhouse a few blocks up at 13 W. 54th St. And he was in the company of a young aide, 25-year-old Megan Marshack, when he was stricken. The tabloids had a field day with the death of the Standard Oil scion, with the story's elements of infidelity, indiscretion and cover-up. Disturbingly, help for the stricken governor was not called for up to an hour after his attack, and the details of the case proved too irresistible for "Saturday Night Live." A sketch that aired on Feb. 10, 1979 began with Don Pardo intoning: "'Emergency' starring Megan Marshack will not be seen tonight so that we may bring you this special presentation."
The story of Rockefeller's death is now steeped in city and political lore. Today, we present how New Yorkers found out about his death on the next day's edition of "Eyewitness News," with John Johnson and Anna Bond at the anchor desk. It's a remarkable report for its depth of coverage, and a very literate obituary by Roger Sharp. Ernie Anastos narrates dramatic footage of Rockefeller's arrival at the hospital, and there are shots of Rocky's wife, "Happy," arriving on the scene later. Click below for a look at where the story stood before its tabloid elements began to emerge, when the greatest blot on Rockefeller's reputation was still described as his handling of the Attica prison riot in 1971.
-- Rolando Pujol
Monday, January 26, 2009
January 24, 2009
Incoming Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's photo and the blaring headline "ANTI INMIGRANTE" grace the cover of today's El Diario - just one more example of the hurdles facing the upstate Democrat as she tries over the next 19 months to win over downstate voters in advance of the 2010 primary challenge she is almost certain to face.
The accompanying story quotes Assemblyman Peter Rivera, the senior Hispanic member of the state Legislature, who released a statement yesterday slamming Gillibrand, saying he saw "no compelling reason" for the governor to have selected someone whose "hard-line stand" on immigration "borders on xenophobia."
El Diario also quotes from Gillibrand's Web site, which lays out her positions on immigration thusly:
"In Congress, Congresswoman Gillibrand has been a firm opponent of any proposal that would give amnesty to illegal aliens. The federal government must provide the necessary resources to secure our borders, which is critical for America’s economic and national security.
She strongly supports legislation that would significantly increase the number of border patrol agents and place sophisticated technology along the Southern border to catch human and drug smugglers.
Congresswoman Gillibrand authored and passed an amendment that will prevent employers who have hired illegal aliens from receiving federal contracts.
In addition, Congresswoman Gillibrand believes English should be made the official language of the United States and she opposes providing non-emergency taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens. As a Member of the Agriculture Committee, she has advocated for a review of the current H-2A visa system, so that farmers will have access to legal workers when they cannot find Americans to fill their labor needs.
Chung-Wa Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition called Gillibrand's stances on immigration issues “deeply troubling."
A reader who drew my attention to the El Diario cover also noted the irony in the fact that at the outset of the 53-day Odyssey that was Paterson's search for Clinton's replacement, he talked about the need for the Hispanic community to be better represented in state government.
The need to empower Hispanic elected officials also played a role in the Senate leadership battle, leading to the creation of a new Latino Task Force by Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, which will be led, not by Sen. Hiram Monserrate or Sen. Martin Dilan but by a Gang of Three member, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.
The dearth of Hispanic representation in the upper echelons of New York leadership came up again in connection with the selection of a replacement for retired Chief Judge Judith Kaye.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Jan 23rd 2009
By Julie Gerstein
And that's not all. Kafalinos, whose cakes were featured in "Sex and the City," was overhead saying that he hoped Obama would follow in assassinated President Abraham Lincoln's footsteps: "He will get what's coming to him." Sounds like a threat to us!
Kafalinos sees nothing wrong with the cookies -- or his remarks. What do you think?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
by Jerry Krase
It seems that everybody wants to get into the act now that someone who can think on his own will become the new tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Even Tom Friedman in his The New York Times opinion piece "Radical in the White House" this morning seems to have oodles of advice for him. First he notes that BHO isn't a "real radical" as the American public was frightened about during the campaign. It sounded up close and personal so I assume that Tom was in DC and attended one or more of the glitzy non-radical post-inauguration events. On the other hand, I took the subway yesterday morning to Manhattan to do some business and hoped to get back in time to watch the inauguration on television with my wife. Across from me on the usually yuppy-packed "F" train was what appeared to me to be a middle-aged African American homeless woman bundled up in an odd collection of winter and summer outerwear. She was fast asleep and next to her sat the usual collection of black plastic garbage bags containing all that she felt worthy of trudging along with her as she traveled on her way to nowhere on a cold and Historic Inauguration Day. She gave off such a foul odor that she had half the car all to herself. A long line of persons of no-color, previously residing in the White House, have found other things too important to consider than her obvious plight. My wish is that Barack Hussein not only remembers the people his predecessors left behind in America, but also comes back to visit them. Now that would really be radical!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hillary Clinton confirmed as Secretary of State by 94-2 vote in Senate
BY MICHAEL McAULIFF
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Updated Wednesday, January 21st 2009, 9:24 PM
Hillary Clinton (l.), along side her husband, former President Bill Clinton, being sworn in as the next Secretary of State in her Senate office by Associate Judge Kathleen Oberly.
The New York senator, who fell agonizingly short in her quest for the most powerful office on Earth, is now perhaps the most powerful woman in the world.
Less than an hour after the vote, she was sworn in during a private ceremony at her Senate office, attended by husband Bill and her staff.
"This letter is to inform you that I resign my seat in the United States Senate effective immediately in order to assume my duties as Secretary of State of the United States," it read.
Clinton, 61, will be at her new desk at Foggy Bottom on Thursday.
The Senate approved Clinton after a mini-rebellion by conservative Republicans fizzled. Few members from either side of the aisle agreed with their complaint that Bill Clinton's global entanglements could compromise U.S. foreign policy.
Even Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who blocked Clinton from being confirmed with other cabinet members Tuesday, voted yes.
The first First Lady to launch her own political career goes on to inherit one of the toughest foreign-policy portfolios in U.S. history - a fact that prompted even other Republicans to urge a speedy and unanimous vote.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the defeated presidential candidate, urged his colleagues to stop dawdling.
"We're in two wars. There's a very fragile ceasefire in Gaza now between the Israelis and Hamas. The situation in North Korea ... seems to have deteriorated," said McCain, pointing to Obama's historic inauguration as evidence the country is tired of bickering.
"I think the message that the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together and get to work," McCain chastised.
Obama quickly signed the papers making the job official. Clinton was sworn in with her right hand on her late father's Bible. The oath was administered by a federal judge, Kathleen Oberly, who was a childhood friend.
New York's only remaining senator - for the moment - offered one last huzzah to Clinton.
"Colleagues have the right to delay," Sen. Chuck Schumer said earlier in urging the Senate to act. "As a country and as a world, we need Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state given her intelligence, her strength, her compass and her ability to get things done."
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Boxing's renaissance man
Jose Torres commanded
ring & respect
Jose Torres gets over hard right to head of Gomeo Brennan at Miami Beach in 1964.
Jose Torres and Muhammad Ali at the 1997 International Boxing Hall of Fame induction.
For the old-timers, the ones who come out of fight nights at the old Garden and out of a much older New York, it will always be 1965 for Jose Torres, when he was young. It will be the night at the old Garden when he beat Willie Pastrano, dancing and jabbing and finally body-punching his way to a TKO. He became the light-heavyweight champion of the world that night and seemed to have won the championship of the city as well. Jose Torres came from Puerto Rico, but by then he was more here than there.
The next day he made his first stop as champ at 110th and Lexington Ave., climbed up on a fire escape and addressed a crowd of thousands.
"This is for everybody," he said, and told the crowd that if he could do something like this in the city of New York, anything was possible.
But he was so much more than just a prizefighter, even if that is how the world first knew him. He became the first Latino columnist in town, at least in an English-language paper, when my old boss, the great Paul Sann, put him to work at the old New York Post. He would later become a commentator on television, and radio host, and in the 1980s even became the New York State Athletic Commissioner.
He was a friend to Norman Mailer, who was once brave enough to get into the ring with him, and Pete Hamill. He once said that Pete had given him his first book and how he now owned more than 800 of them, and was confident that "Pete's responsible for six or seven hundred." He had a good enough voice to sing a ballad one time on the Ed Sullivan Show.
"I keep telling you," he used to say to me, "I am more a lover than a fighter."
Jose Torres wrote books about Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, and spent so much time trying to save Tyson from himself and what he called the "parasites" around him. And became a friend to Robert F. Kennedy when Kennedy became the U.S. senator from New York.
Kennedy wanted to learn about the city, to know the city, and not just the avenues of power in Manhattan. So Hamill and the late Jack Newfield became guides for him in those years. So did Jose Torres. They would get in the car at night and drive the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, get out and talk to the people who lived in them. A Kennedy doing this, and the kid from Puerto Rico who had won a silver medal in the '56 Summer Olympics, won the 160-pound division of the '58 Golden Gloves, would later end up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.
And Kennedy and Jose Torres would talk through the night. One of the things they talked about was what Robert Kennedy talked about in speeches in those days, about how within 40 years a man of color would be President. It was why Torres thrilled so much to the run Barack Obama made to the nomination and finally to today, even though he was back in Puerto Rico by last year, there to write and grow old as gracefully as he had fought once.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The NYPD excluded journalists in a public area of City Hall to benefit a connected news outlet
By Rafael Martínez Alequín
On the morning of Friday, January 16th, Mayor Bloomberg, held a news conference at the Blue Room honoring the first responders to help and save the passengers on the United Airline flight who crash on the Hudson River.
At the conclusion of the News conference NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, accompanied with his security detail and Deputy Commissioner for communication (DCPI) Paul Browne were met by a television crew from channel 5. Commissioner Kelly proceeds to walk out of City Hall. Mr. Yvan Osorio, a freelance cameraman for RCN-TV, as well as this writer we were not allowed to cover the news conference.
Mr. Osorio was stopped by an officer from DCPI from taken images from a conference from police officers as the vestibule in City Hall. The DCPI officer told Mr. Osorio as well as this writer that that news conference was an “exclusive for channel 5." The DCPI officer proceeds to cover the lens of Mr. Osorio’s camera when he tried to take images of the conference. When I approach the officer and I asked for his name, he told me in a threatened matter the he don’t have to give me his named. Meanwhile, his boss, Paul Browne, was there witnessing the DCPI threatening Mr. Osorio. Mr. Ivan Osorio in at telephone conversation stated: “The DCPI officer put his face closed to mine very aggressive to intimidated me.”
The question is when an exclusive interview is done in a public area? Why the NYPD, office of Communication chooses a particular media in a public area for an exclusive? Perhaps, because the Police Commissioner son,Greg Kelly, is a co-host of the morning show for that same network. A network owned by media monopolizer Rupert Murdoch, who also has possession of WOR TV, The New York Post and half of the local weekly neighbor papers in the city.
In the meantime, the denizens of Room 9 in City Hall didn’t pay attention when the NYPD was in clear violation of the first amendments
Puerto Rican boxer Jose
'Cheguí' Torres dies at 72
BY JUAN GONZALEZ
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Updated Monday, January 19th 2009, 5:55 PM
Jose "Cheguí" Torres sparing with Cleo Daniels in a training session before a fight in 1969.
Hall of Fame boxer Jose "Chegui" Torres, the former light heavyweight champion and Olympic Silver Medalist who went on to become a newspaper columnist, author, boxing official and revered representative of the Puerto Rican community, died at his home in Puerto Rico early this morning of a massive heart attack. He was 72.
On March 30, 1965, Torres electrified the Latin American world when he defeated Willie Pastrano by a technical knockout at Madison Square Garden to become the first Hispanic light heavyweight champion.
Before the match, Torres exhibited his fierce pride in his Puerto Rican heritage when insisted he would not get in the ring unless Madison Square Garden officials agreed to play the island's national anthem as well as the Star Spangled Banner. Garden officials agreed.
Torres successfully defended his title three times before losing to Dick Tiger in a close contest in 1966. A Madison Square Garden rematch with Tiger followed a year later. Torres again lost in a close decision, one that so angered his Puerto Rican fans that that city cops had to be mobilized to quell the riot that erupted in the Garden.
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Torres began fighting when he joined the U.S. Army as a teenager. He captured a silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics while competing for the United States, then won a Daily News Golden Gloves championship in 1958.
After his retirement from boxing in 1969, he launched a second career as a columnist for the New York Post and El Diario-La Prensa and as a representative for the Puerto Rican community. At the Post, he was a sidekick for years of fellow columnist Pete Hamill and writer Norman Mailer.
Torres later chaired the New York State Boxing Commission in the 1980s and served as supervisor for the World Boxing Organization. He also wrote two biographies - "Sting Like a Bee" on Muhammad Ali and "Fire and Fear" on Mike Tyson.
In 1997, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
"He used his celebrity status to do good for the Puerto Rican community and for all youth," said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a close friend of Torres for decades.
Velazquez said she had spoken to Torres's wife of 47 years, Ramona, only yesterday, and learned from her that Torres seemed to be doing well after undergoing hospital treatment for diabetes. Then, around 4:30 this morning, Torres suffered a massive, according to his wife.
He is survived by his wife and four children.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Mayor Wagner 3rd Term Changed NYC . . . Will Bloomberg Do the Same?
by Gary Tilzer
Mayor Wagner started his political career as a protege of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party machine that had controlled city affairs for most of 150 years. By 1961, he had broken with Tammany and its chief, Carmine G. De Sapio, and defeated that organization. Today NYC is not controlled by a party machine, but by a permanent gang of real estate developers, lobbyists and incumbents who have become the machine designed to keep everyone else out. They have designed election laws that encourage low voter turnout and discourages independent participation in the political process. They have designed a media to act as cheerleaders for their special interests and incumbent elected officials, rather than as objective reporters.
When Bloomberg tried to break NYC's ruling gangs' control by supporting nonpartisan elections, the permanent government teamed up against him and defeated him easily. Wagner in defeating Tammany Hall, launched the Democratic reform movement of the 60's, 70's and 80's that brought a new generation of leaders into local government. These new leaders were the reason for the renaissance and growth of the city which started in the late 70's.
If Bloomberg wants to start an independent party to help him win a 3rd term he should copy the objectives of Mayor Wagner and clean out the political gangs who operate and destroy the process today like Tammany Hall did a generation ago. Bloomberg it is time to Change NYC. What good will a Bloomberg 3rd term do if it leaves in place elected officials who do not know how to rebuild and properly govern New York City *** Bloomy & Tom's 3rd-Party Tag-Team.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Bank Of America, Citigroup, Corporate Taxes, Morgan Stanley, Tax Havens, Tax Loophole, Taxes, Business News
The Government Accountability Office released a report that said Bank of America Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley all had more than 100 units in countries that maintain low or no taxes. The three financial institutions were included in the $700 billion financial bailout approved by Congress.
Insurance giant American International Group Inc., which has received about $150 billion in bailout money, had 18 subsidiaries. JPMorgan Chase & Co. had 50 units and Wells Fargo & Co. had 18; both financial institutions received government bailout money.
Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who requested the report, have pushed for tougher laws to fight offshore tax havens around the globe. Levin, who leads the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has estimated abusive tax havens and offshore accounts cost the U.S. government at least $100 billion a year in lost taxes.
"I think we should take action to shut down these tax dodgers and we will be introducing legislation to do just that," Dorgan said.
General Motors Corp., which received $13.4 billion from the federal rescue package, had 11 offshore subsidiaries while GM's financing arm, GMAC LLC, had two offshore units. GMAC, whose majority owner is private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, received $5 billion from the Treasury Department in late December.
Citigroup said in a statement that it has more than 4,000 subsidiaries around the globe "which enables us to serve hundreds of millions of individuals and institutions in more than 100 countries." A News Corp. spokeswoman declined comment. Messages were left with several of the companies identified in the report.
Separately, the GAO said 63 of the 100 largest federal contractors maintain subsidiaries in 50 tax havens.
Story continues below
Levin noted that many competitors use the tax havens to varying degrees. PepsiCo Inc. has 70 subsidiaries while the Coca-Cola Co. has eight units. Caterpillar Inc. had 49 while Deere & Co. had three.
"We need to put an end to the use of offshore secrecy jurisdictions as tax havens," Levin said.
The GAO said the subsidiaries could be established in the countries "for a variety of nontax business reasons" and said having a business unit in one of the countries "does not signify that a corporation or federal contractor established that subsidiary for the purpose of reducing its tax burden."
Citigroup had 427 units in 23 countries, including 91 subsidiaries in Luxembourg and 90 in the Cayman Islands. Morgan Stanley had 273 units, News Corp. had 152 and Bank of America had 115. Procter & Gamble Co. had 83 subsidiaries and Pfizer Inc. had 80 in the jurisdictions.
Several major corporations have announced plans to leave Bermuda, a leading offshore business center, amid the global financial crisis and fears of tighter tax rules. Tyco Electronics Ltd., which makes electronic components, and Foster Wheeler Ltd., an engineering and construction company, are reincorporating in Switzerland _ which has a tax treaty with the U.S. _ for tax and other reasons. Covidien Ltd., a health care products company, is heading to Ireland.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Got an interesting letter forwarded to me, and I am told I can run with it. I am hoping I am not stepping on the toes of either of the two good folks in this sad, petty tantrum. Tony Avella and Doris Diether don't deserve this kind of crap. But it is worth showing that Chritine Quinn is willing to stoop so low for such petty reasons. Not sure the full path of this leak, but I Tony Avella does not seem party to it. But at least one key link in the chain has given the go ahead for it.
SO the background is that Doris Diether, a wonderful member of Community Board 2, is having an 80th birthday. Sincere congratulations! May Doris have many more wonderful birthdays! Doris has served on the community board since a little before I was born!
Tony Avella apparently wished to honor this woman with a proclamation on her 80th birthday. This is a fairly common thing in our city government and something that can make people feel pretty good. It is nice when city government recognizes by official proclamation good people and groups. Avella was doing a nice thing here and from all I have heard, Avella generally does nice things.
Enter the grinch of the story.
Christine Quinn, apparently angry that Avella had, in the past, opposed her Majesty, stepped in. Quinn wanted to offer her own proclamation (which is her right) and had a little hissy fit about Avella. Normally under such circumstances, Quinn would merely invite Avella to sign onto her proclamation. Nice, neat, clean. Everyone is happy. But Quinn would have nothing of protocol, custom or diplomacy. Quinn preferred petty tantrums. Not only did she want her proclamation to take precidence (not a problem) but she refused to allow Avella to sign onto her proclamation, which is a clear violation of protocol...not to mention common decency.
Here is a scan of an email I was forwarded regarding Quinn's hissy fit:
Sorry if the image isn't the best. The text reads:
I am writing with some unfortunate news regarding Councilman Avella's proclamation for Ms. Diether on January 10th. It looks like the Councilman will not be able to attend nor present a proclamation. As you may know, Speaker Quinn will be presenting her own proclamation at the event. Normally, City Council protocol allows any interested Councilmember to sign on to the proclamation. However, given the Speaker's political differences with the Councilman, she is not allowing Tony's name to be attached to her proclamation nor is she letting him have his own proclamation. The Councilman is upset and angry over these circumstances and obviously does not want any of this political infighting to affect Ms. Diether's celebration...
So, in other words, Tsarina Quinn is allowing politics to interfere with honoring a valued member of the community. Upon hearing of this, my wife gave one of her usual very insightful comments:
Now we get to see Quinn's gratuitous abuse of power...in addition to her usual abuse of power that financially benefits her friends and allies.
A scan of Tony Avella's reply was also forwarded to me:
Again the image quality isn't the best. The key portion reads:
The nonsense that then ensued from your office defies explanation. It would seem that you wanted to do the proclamation. Without going into detail as to who first requested the proclamation, your refusal to allow me as a Member of the City Council to sign on to your proclamation is an absolute disgrace.
Frankly, your behavior in this regard is both unprofessional and childish. Surely, whatever political we may have can be set aside to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a woman who has dedicated herself to improving the quality of life of her neighborhood.
Remember that Christine Quinn is also the person who either was at the center of, or turned a blind eye to the Slushgate scandal. Then there was the massive insult to voters in reversing the term limits referenda overwhelmingly passed by voters. And now there is the fact that she is just plain a spoiled, pewling brat when you get right down to it.
For those who are sick of Tsarina Quinn, there are two good candidates running against her this year: Yetta Kurland and Maria Passannante Derr. I have heard particularly good things about Yetta, but Maria also seems good.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester County, said Tuesday that his committee subpoenaed Yankees president Randy Levine as well as city Industrial Development Agency Chairman Seth Pinsky.
Brodsky said the subpoenas compel the officials to appear for questioning at a hearing Wednesday, and to provide documents the committee wants for its investigation into whether public money should be used for the new stadium in the Bronx.
Brodsky's move was criticized by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.
"I guess it makes for good political theater because it's the Yankees, but when it comes to valuable taxpayer dollars, decisions should be made on return not rhetoric," said Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent. "The deal leverages a federal program and will result in New York City getting back more tax revenue than it will cost and the South Bronx getting thousands of new jobs and more than $1 billion in private investment."
Levine learned he was going to be subpoenaed Monday night, but had already rearranged his schedule to attend Wednesday's hearing, said his spokeswoman, Alice McGillion.
Officials for the city and the Yankees have already appeared before the committee and provided documents, but Brodsky continues to investigate. Brodsky said the Yankees and the city have denied him records related to additional public financing requested by the team.
Brodsky has accused city and team officials of secret negotiations that altered property assessments to make the deal legal and to provide a free luxury suite for city officials. Brodsky says the project won't create enough permanent jobs to justify the public funding.
Both the Yankees and New York Mets have asked the city for more public bonds to finance their increasingly expensive ballparks, which are scheduled to open this spring.
Both teams have given long lists of reasons why they want more public bonds, including construction delays, government requirements such as security and fireproofing, and design changes such as enhanced scoreboards and bigger food service areas.
The Yankees are asking for another $259 million in tax-exempt bonds and $111 million in taxable bonds, on top of $940 million in tax-exempt bonds and $25 million in taxable bonds already granted for the $1.3 billion Bronx stadium.
The Mets are requesting an additional $83 million, after the $615 million already approved, for their $800 million Queens park.
Last week, the Bloomberg administration said it would forgo luxury boxes, valued at as much as $850,000 for the new Yankee Stadium and up to $500,000 at the new Mets ballpark, following months of criticism about its handling of the projects.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Lawyer Siegel [photo], who will run for Public Advocate this year, represented three bloggers who said they were unfairly turned down for the police department-issued i.d.'s.
Normally, the New York City Police Department issues those cards (of which there are, actually, two types, but that's besides the point here) to reporters for major newspapers and TV and radio stations.
One of the three happy bloggers, Rafael Martínez Alequin, wrote a post on his blog YourFreePress, which he does on blogspot.
Martínez Alequin, on his website, pays homage to the rising blogosphere of which he is a denizen and (now) a hero:
"The Internet in just a few short years has put newspapers on their own obit page and elected a president. Most Americans today receive their news over the Internet; where a guy in his manhattan apartment can compete on the internet with old line institutions of journalism."
The only thing we'd add is that the above-mentioned Manhattan apartment could be in Brooklyn.
Siegel has said this chapter in his federal law suit against the city has ended, but the struggle continues against police restrictions on who does and does not receive police credentials.
The higher level credentials allow reporters to cross police lines; the lower tier ones simply identify the person as a recognized representative of the media. The Three Musketeers of the Blogosphere received the latter ones, but they seem satisfied, for now.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
In 1968, Amory Bradford penned a volume entitled Oakland's Not For Burning, documenting the tinderbox that the city had become, and the lamenting the inevitability with which it would explode. But the assertion contained in the book's title was hardly credible, coming as it was from a Yale-educated former Wall Street lawyer and New York Times general manager whose only business in Oakland came via the U.S. Commerce Department. Some forty years later, in the early hours of this year of ostensible hope, the reality of the persistence of racism in Oakland became devastatingly clear, sparking a powerful response the likes of which this city hasn't seen in years. But luckily, the condescending voices of moderation, like that of Bradford a generation prior, seem have little traction with those who have seen enough police murder.
A New Year's Execution
After responding to reports of "a fight" on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train, BART police detained the train at the Fruitvale station, forcibly removing several young men from the train as dozens of bystanders watched. Several of the men, all young and mostly black, were lined up, seated, along the platform. Some were cuffed, Oscar Grant was not. As he was attempting to defuse the situation, BART police decided to detain him, placing him face-down on the platform, with one officer kneeling near his neck, and another straddling his legs. For some still unexplained reason, one officer, now identified as Johannes Mehserle stood up, pulled his gun, and fired a shot directly into Oscar Grant's back.
The bullet went through Grant's back, ricocheting off the platform and puncturing his lung. There are gasps from the bystanders and shock on the face of the other officers, who clearly didn't expect the shot to be fired. Grant, who was begging not to be Tasered at the time of the shot, clearly didn't expect it either. But this surprise notwithstanding, the decision was then made to cuff the young man as he lay dying. As an added precaution, BART police then sought immediately to confiscate all videophones held by the train passengers, in an effort to cover up the murder. Luckily for everyone but the BART P.D. and Mehserle, several videos managed to make it into the public domain, where they went viral and were viewed on Youtube hundreds of thousands of times in the following days. In a rare show of journalistic integrity, local Fox affiliate KTVU aired one of the videos in its entirety.
The standard protocol---deny, distort, cover-up---had clearly been disrupted, and BART spokesman Linton Johnson even went so far as to criticize the leaking of the video, arguing that rather than clarifying events, public access to the video would "taint" the investigation. BART was on a back foot, and popular anger was on the offensive.
A Corporate Police Force
BART Police are a notoriously problematic organization, existing in a gray area between public and private, funded by taxpayers but operating under a corporate structure which lacks all accountability and oversight. According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
The structure of the BART police force is a recipe for disaster. BART's general manager (who is not an elected official and has no expertise in law enforcement) hires the BART police chiefŠ There is no police commission, no police review board, not even a committee of the elected BART board designated to handle complaints against and issues with the BART policeŠ There is, in other words, no civilian oversight.
And this "disaster" has been more than merely hypothetical: in 1992, a BART cop shot unarmed Jerrold Hall in the back of the head with a shotgun as he walked away, after firing a warning shot. In 2001, BART police shot a mentally ill man who was unarmed and naked. And according to Tim Redmond, writing in the same paper, "BART made a monumental effort to cover [the Hall slaying] up," and in the end, "Nothing happenedŠ BART called the shooting justified." As of yesterday, BART hadn't yet interviewed the officer, Johannes Mehserle, who insisted on invoking Fifth Amendment rights not to speak. And just when they claim to have compelled him to do so, he abruptly resigned, thereby ending any internal affairs investigation that may have taken place. There still remains, according to BART, a criminal investigation, but if the past is any indicator, this won't get far.
But let's not fool ourselves. Even publicly-run organizations like the Oakland Police Department, which has all the ties in the world to elected power, operates with an informal shoot-to-kill policy for black teenagers. This was as clear in the 2007 murder of Gary King as it is with Oscar Grant today. And since the district attorney responsible for bringing charges against the police works closely with these same police on a daily basis and in a shared enterprise of delivering convictions, we should not be surprised that not a single police murder in recent years has even seen disciplinary action. "No one we talked with," writes the Chronicle, "from the district attorney's office to lawyers who work either side of police shootings - could remember a case in the last 20 years in which an on-duty officer had been charged in a fatal shooting in Alameda County."
Does It Matter What Really Happened?
We have all seen the video, and rumors are swirling about how to interpret its contents. The officer clearly fires a fatal shot into Oscar Grant's back while the latter is face-down on the floor. A flurry of "experts" have intervened to give their analysis. While such expert testimony usually functions to justify the police, even among these experts some are shocked and disgusted by what they see. One expert, after concluding that the gun had accidentally gone off, watched video from another angle, after which he changed his conclusion: "Looking at it, I hate to say this, it looks like an execution to me."
Others are insisting that Mehserle meant to pull out his (less fatal) Taser, but this theory has since been discredited. Firstly, a Sig-Sauer handgun weighs three times what a Taser weighs, and the shape is completely distinct, and another expert noticed in the tape that the officer had previously withdrawn his Taser, located for safety reasons on the other side of his belt. In other words, he knew he was going for the gun. Hence the claim of accidental discharge, but this too raises a serious question of plausibility: when Mehserle drew his gun, Grant couldn't see it, and so there could be no claim that it was meant to threaten the victim into passivity. In the end, if Mehserle is ever forced to give a statement, he will likely turn to the tried-and-true excuse that he "suspected" Grant had a gun in his pants.
But none of this matters, all the debate of the officer's "intention" only serves to reinforce the fact that, while white cops are allowed to have intention, this is a quantity denied to their victims. This fact of racist double-standards is not lost on those who, realizing that there will be no "justice" in this case, have taken to the streets to demonstrate their rage at the unprovoked execution.
"I'm Feeling Pretty Violent Right About Now"
While friends and family were gathered for Grant's funeral, a number of organizations called a demonstration where he was killed, at Fruitvale BART station. Circulating by internet and Facebook, the call reached many thousands, and in the end some 500-600 protestors and mourners came together to make speeches and lament this murder. At a makeshift memorial behind the BART station, candles are burning, and hand-written messages appear: "Oscar, we watched you grow up from a lil' boy down the street into a man," and "O., RIP, peaceful journey, God only pick da best."
As an indication of the contrasting sentiments that divided the crowd, where someone had scribbled "Fuck the police," another had covered the expletive with another message: "Forgive." But forgiveness wasn't on the minds of many. Several of the more radical protestors climbed onto the BART turnstiles, displaying a red, black, and green flag. One shouted:
I've got the mentality of my parents who were Black Panthers, I'm tired of talking, I'm thinking like L.A. in 1992. Y'all can have your megaphone speeches, I been through that, I'm black, I don't need more speeches. Let's take a stand today, because tomorrow ain't promised!
While some on the mic attempted to soothe the crowd, insisting that burning up the city was "too easy" and "useless," the message didn't seem to resonate much with the crowd. And why should it? We were standing in the middle of "Fruitvale Village," a corporate paradise in the middle of a historically Latino district, which clearly doesn't belong to the local residents. It was clear where the momentum was going, as the biggest cheers went up for the more radical voices who seized the mic: "I'm feelin pretty violent right now," one insisted, "I'm on some Malcolm X shit: by any means necessary. If I don't see some action, I'ma cause a ruckus myself."
While some remained to hear additional speakers, including hyphy hip-hopper Mistah FAB and the recently-founded Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE), several hundred set out on a militant and rapidly-moving march north on International Boulevard. The police response was initially hands-off, despite the tenor of the chants: "No Justice, No Peace: Fuck the Police," and "La Migra, La Policia: La Misma Porqueria." If those in the passing cars and stuck in traffic were of any indication, the local population knew exactly what was going on, why we were protesting, and were largely sympathetic.
As the march wound around Lake Merritt, it turned sharply to the left, a shortcut to BART headquarters. This seems to have thrown off the police, who were clearly unprepared for what came next. A single police car, parked sideways at 8th and Madison to prevent access to the BART headquarters, became the target of the crowd's increasing fury. Sensing the tone of the crowd, a cop reached in and grabbed her helmet before scurrying away. Within moments, the police car was destroyed and nearly flipped over, and a nearby dumpster was burning.
A few seconds later, the air was thick with teargas. Evidently, seeing their own property destroyed was too much for the police to stomach. (Note: there is no truth to the CNN report that tear gas was deployed to protect a surrounded officer). I get a noseful of teargas, and a protestor near me is shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet, and needs to be helped off, as the crowd quickly sprints north toward downtown. Passing through Chinatown, dumpsters full of fresh produce are emptied into the street to slow the march of a line of riot police. When the crowd reaches Broadway, there is momentary confusion, with some continuing straight to Old Oakland, some pushing left toward Jack London Square, and others urging a move rightward toward the city center.
The police took advantage of this momentary indecision, with a full line charge that send many of the furious demonstrators sprinting and left many arrested. When the crowd regrouped, it was promptly encircled at 14th and Broadway, and a standoff ensued. Either by design or by a predictable quirk of the police organization, nearly every riot cop in the street was white, some sneering defiantly. And if the crowd of demonstrators was largely multiethnic, it was clear by this point that the functional vanguard was composed largely of the young, black teenagers most acutely aware of their relationship to the police. There were chants of "We are all Oscar Grant!" and several protestors lay in the middle of the street with their hands behind their backs, mimicking the position in which Grant was executed.
Some small fires were set, and the police moved in again, pushing the crowd down 14th toward Lake Merritt. The spearhead of the demonstrators rushed forward to shouts of "We the police today!" smashing and torching vehicles, and while this was done out of anger it was far from irrational, as the press will certainly present it. Rather, it was the result of a very clear line of reasoning that goes something like this: we have to do something, and in the face of police impunity, this is all we can do. Nothing would be more irrational than a blind faith that the police will do the right thing, given all the historical evidence to the contrary. While the press is doing its best to find bystanders to decry the "vandalism" involved, it couldn't ignore the testimony Oakland Post reporter Ken Epstein, who was writing an article on the killing when he looked out his office window to see his Honda CRV in flames: "I'm sorry my car was burned," Epstein admitted, "but the issue is very upsetting."
The crisp wintry air swirled and the lights twinkled along the surface of Lake Merritt as demonstrators demolished a local McDonalds, at which point a line had clearly been crossed: a police armored personnel carrier came tearing down the street at 45 miles per hour, firing rubber bullets and sending the crowd scattering. The scene was surreal, with padded riot cops leaping off the vehicle in an effort to win an impossible footrace with younger and fitter demonstrators.
Dellums Steps In, Steps Out
From the early moments of the demonstration, the position of the mayor, Ron Dellums, was at issue. Here was a mayor with a great deal of popular respect, with longstanding civil rights credentials, but who had done little to slow the pace of police killing, among the other ongoing ills plaguing postindustrial Oakland. With tear gas swirling and the APCs circling, the mayor decided to make his appearance at around 9pm, walking the few blocks from City Hall down to 14th and Jackson to address the angry crowd himself. Several times he attempted to scurry away under hard questions that he could not answer, with the standard responses: we should all take it down a notch; there will be an investigation.
I don't remember what it was exactly that I yelled at the mayor, but it certainly got to him. As he was leaving the crowd, he turned and walked directly up to me, putting his face a mere inches from my own.
Dellums: What I want people to do now is calm down. I've told the police to stand down, and I hope you all can do the same. Both sides need to be peaceful right now so we can find out exactly what happened.
Me: But we know what happened! We've all seen the video: A cop pulled his gun and shot an unarmed black man in the back. And you know there are reasons that certain people have guns pulled on them and others don't.
Dellums: There are two processes currently underwayŠ
Me: The process is if I shoot someone, I'm arrested. But if a cop shoots someone, he gets put on paid administrative leave until everyone forgets about it.
Dellums: I'm asking both sides to be peacefulŠ
Me: Both sides? I haven't killed anybody, this crowd hasn't killed anybody. The police have killed somebody, and you're in charge of the police! Who runs this city? When will the prisoners be released?
Dellums then returned to City Hall, surveying the damage. But as he entered, the angry crowd booed thunderously. And despite his claim that the police had been ordered to stand down, clashes broke out immediately on the same block, more fires broke out, and more teargas was deployed. The mayor's intervention could do little to calm Oakland's frazzled nerves. His claim that the people have lost faith in the police rings empty for people who never had such faith in the first place, people who have seen vicious police murder after police murder without so much as an indictment.
The demonstrators continued to express their pent-up rage, engaging in running battles until nearly 11pm, when a mass arrest seems to have quelled the resistance for the moment. All in all, official numbers show 105 arrests (including 21 juveniles), more than 80 of which occurred after Dellums claims to have told OPD to stand down. Who knows if his promise of a speedy release means anything at all. Support and solidarity demonstrations are scheduled this week for the prisoners' arraignments, and with another mass mobilization scheduled for next Wednesday, this is far from over.
Intention as Privilege
As I have said, and at the risk of controversy I will repeat: it doesn't matter if Mehserle meant to pull the trigger. He had already assumed the role of sole arbiter over the life or death of Oscar Grant. He had already decided that Grant, by virtue of his skin color and appearance, was worth less than other citizens. And rather than acquitting the officer, all of the psychological analyses and possible explanations of the shooting that have been trotted-out in the press, and all the discussion of the irrelevant elements of Grant's criminal history, have only proven this fundamental point.
If a young black or Latino male pulls a gun and someone winds up dead, intention is never the issue, and first-degree murder charges are on the agenda, as well as likely murder charges for anyone of the wrong color standing nearby. If we reverse the current situation, and the gun is in Oscar Grant's hand, then racist voices would be squealing for the death penalty regardless of intention. And yet when it's a cop pulling the trigger, all the media and public opinion resources are deployed to justify, understand, and empathize with this unconscionable act. One side is automatically condemned; the other automatically excused.
For now, the fires are out. But despite the soothing words of Barack Obama and Ron Dellums, there is no lack of fuel and no lack of spark in Oakland.
George Ciccariello-Maher is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at UC Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, and can be reached at gjcm(at)berkeley.edu.
After launching the BLOG Oakland Police COP WATCH yesterday I been overflooded with emails tips testimony's etc.
I Just got a video that was sent to me this morning with ABSOLUTE proof that the COP that Killed OSCAR GRANT did it premeditated and with anticipated intentions to commit FIRST DEGREE MURDER. Please download and distribute widely
Copy the following to embed the movie into another web page:
bart_police_shoot_oscar_grant_1_.flv (2.7 MB)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
“Now bloggers will have a venue to apply to get their credentials. . . I’ve been in City Hall for almost 25 years, and I’m not going to stop now.”
cccccccccccMartínez Alequin, City Hall Gadfly
Three bloggers who had sued New York City after the Police Department denied them press credentials because they work for online or nontraditional news outlets were issued credentials on Friday after the police relented, the bloggers’ lawyer, Norman Siegel, said.
Bloggers saw their victory as a major step in gaining respect for the job they are doing of keeping the public informed. Others saw the city's turnaround as a realization of the the changing ways New Yorkers are receiving their news and interacting with local government, politics and and their community. A generation ago all news flowed thru the City's Newspapers. In the 60 and 70's TV news began to compete with the city's papers. In the last 5 years changing technology and economies have brought a new major player to the table of news provider, the Internet and bloggers.
The Internet has transformed our world as dramatically as the Gutenberg Press. But there is a big difference. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439 it took generations to feel its full effect. The Internet in just a few short years has put newspapers on their own obit page and elected a president. Most Americans today receive their news over the Internet; where a guy in his manhattan apartment can compete on the internet with old line institutions of journalism. While the quality of citwide coverage of the old time newspapers have yet to appear in the blogging community, there are some very good bloggers reporting daily in serveral communities. With the dumbing down of newspapers and TV news caused by economic realities, the blogging community is the only place were quality is improving. In other words the city acknowledged the certainty that blogging will soon control news distribution.
The three bloggers — Rafael Martínez Alequin - Your Free Press, Ralph E. Smith- The Guardian Chronicle and David Wallis - featurewell.com — filed a federal lawsuit in November asserting that they were denied press credentials in 2007 “with little explanation or opportunity for appeal.” They argued that the system for issuing press credentials was “inconsistent and constitutionally flawed.” Mr. Siegel sad he was delighted with the outcome, but he vowed to continue the lawsuit, saying further reforms were needed. "This is an important first step, but only a first step," Siegel said. We still need to address the constitutional problems in the system of granting press credentials in new York City that has run amok and needs to be changed immediately, so the lawsuit continues." Siegel said he would prefer to see the city Department of Consumer Affairs handle press credentials, calling it inappropriate for a high-profile agency like the police department to have the final word on who is a journalist. *** Score One For The Bloggers ***After Police Relent, Bloggers Get Press Credentials *** Bloggers Battles NYPD And Win Sorta
Friday, January 9, 2009
January 9, 2009
Maverick City Hall blogger Rafael Martinez-Alequin has won his battle to get the NYPD to give him an official press card, the DN's Frank Lombardi reports.
“It’s done,” said the gadfly journalist after receiving his press credentials Friday morning at NYPD headquarters, where he was accompanied by his lawyer (and public advocate candidate) Norman Siegel.
Similar press cards were issued to two other independent journalists who had joined Martinez-Alequin in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the city’s system of granting credentials through the NYPD.
The others are: Ralph E. Smith, reporter and publisher for GuardianChronicle.com and David Wallis, editor of Featurewell.com.
One wrinkle: The crendentials are "identification" cards, which offer less access than those issued to "working press." The latter allow the bearer to cross police lines.
Martinez-Alequin and Siegel said the three would continue their federal suit despite being granted press credentials.
"This is an important first step, but only a first step," Siegel said. We still need to address the constitutional problems in the system of granting press crednetials in new York City that has run amok and needs to be changed immediately, so the lawsuit continues."
Siegel said he would prefer to see the city Department of Consumer Affairs handle press credentials, calling it inappropriate for a high-profile agency like the police department to have the final word on who is a journalist.
The civil rights attorney hopes to determine during the discovery phase of his lawsuit whether the NYPD has been using press passes to punish reporters who have been more critical of the government by denying or revoking their credentials while going easier on those perceived as more "pro-establishment."
Martinez-Alequin has a Web site - New York City Free Press - that reprints news stories by mainstream publications and also features commentary by its writer, who, until recently, also had a part-time job with former Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr.
The site delights in negative coverage of Mayor Bloomberg and his administration.
Martinez-Alequin had been a fixture around City Hall under several prior mayors, and always had an NYPD press pass until 2007, when the NYPD refused to renew it on grounds that he wasn’t “a full-time employee of a news gathering organization covering spot or breaking news events on a regular basis.”
Known for shouting out barbed questions in the Blue Room, where Bloomberg much prefers reporters to raise their hands and wait for him to acknowledge them, Martinez-Alequin was banned from mayoral press conferences at City Hall after he lost his press credential.
While the mayor has since lifted that ban, he has studiously refused to accept questions from Martinez-Alequin. Recently, even Council Speaker Christine Quinn has joined in giving him the silent treatment.
This isn't the only lawsuit Siegel has brought against the city in which Martinez-Alequin is a plaintiff. He's also a party to the attorney's slush fund suit, which is still pending.