Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bernie's Back!

No, not Bernie Williams, the esteemed former CF for the New York Yankees, but that scoundrel Bernie Kerik. You know, that old Rudy minion; the former NYPD commissioner, whose old boss famously pushed George W. Bush to nominate him as head of Homeland Security. This, of course, blew up in all their faces, not only due to Kerik being woefully unqualified for the post, but for also being the proud owner of a shady and corrupt resume, including alleged dealings with Rudy's greatest foes, NYC organized crime. Man, that's some old school NY shit, right there. Reminds me of the bygone days of Brooklyn's 77th police precinct, during the '70s and '80s, where a group of rogue cops known as the Buddy Boys would steal drugs from dealers and then resell them on their own, among numerous other heinous offenses. (Where was Kerik during that time, anyway? Oh, that's right: in the US military and later, in a power struggle, being ousted from his post as security chief of an elite Saudi Arabia hospital. Sorry.)

Well, Rudy's homeboy plead 'not guity' in federal court yesterday. You see, they've added tax fraud to the corruption charges against him. You sure know how to pick 'em Rudy.

New York Times:
The heart of the federal case [against Kerik] includes allegations that a construction company suspected of having ties to the Mafia paid for renovations at Mr. Kerik’s home in the Bronx in the hope that he would help the company obtain a city license.

Mr. Kerik also faces charges that he failed to disclose a $250,000 loan financed by an unnamed Israeli businessman, and failed to report more than $500,000 in income beginning in 1999, including three years when he was the city’s correction commissioner, then police commissioner.

Looking forward to seeing Kerik in one of the lovely, bright orange jumpsuits they wear at Rikers, which he used to run. Should be fun.

How Do You Spin This One, W?

AP:

Hurricane Katrina not only pulverized the Gulf Coast in 2005, it knocked the bully pulpit out from under President George W. Bush, according to two former advisers who spoke candidly about the political impact of the government's poor handling of the natural disaster.

"Katrina to me was the tipping point," said Matthew Dowd, Bush's pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign. "The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn't matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn't matter. P.R.? It didn't matter. Travel? It didn't matter."

Dan Bartlett, former White House communications director and later counselor to the president, said: "Politically, it was the final nail in the coffin."


You have the floor, Rush.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Atlantic Yards: RIP?

Actually, the above headline is just wishful thinking on my part. But there seems to be hope, despite the Supreme Court's refusal earlier this summer to hear an appeal of the eviction notices related to the 22-acre development on the outskirts of downtown Brooklyn. The crippled housing market coupled with an economy in full recession has paralyzed the Atlantic Yards project, while two major lawsuits opposing it are making its way through the New York court system.

For those of you unaware of the Atlantic Yards development project here's a brief summary of this highly controversial enterprise:

A Long Island Rail Road yard and a sizable amount of private property surrounding it--made available to the developer, Forest City Ratner, via the city's use of the eminent domain policy--will be the site for a commercial and residential development which will include a stadium for the New Jersey Nets, who are owned by FCR. (Ironically, the site is right across from where Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley wanted the city to let him build a stadium for his team. When his request was denied he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957.)

Did I mention that over 15,000 people are expected to move into this area as a result of the Atlantic Yards project, which could make it the the most densely populated neighborhood in the world? (Hello, terrorism target!) How about the detrimental environmental aspects of something this large? Or that the site is located at the busiest intersection in Brooklyn, one that at 11 PM on a weeknight resembles rush hour traffic in a medium sized-town? (This is slightly more impressive when you actually visit the area with folks from outside of Brooklyn and witness their dumbfounded reactions.) I'm convinced that only the insanely greedy could conceive of building such an overwhelmingly-sized project on the chosen site.

I'm not necessarily against urban development; but this one I'm firmly against, to the point of boycotting companies and institutions aligned with it, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn Brewery, among them. (Yeah, I know: they're not going to buckle under my non-existent pressure, but I don't have to give them my money.) Anyone who agrees with the use of eminent domain to benefit a private developer should be ashamed of themselves. Period.

And don't get me started on that whole Nets stadium nonsense. (By the way, the British banking institution Barclays, who paid $400m for the stadium's naming rights, is rumored to have been in cahoots with South Africa's apartheid regime and the Nazis. Way to go, FCR! And for the record, before accusations of hypocrisy are levied against me, I did not agree with city funds being allotted for the new Yankee Stadium, unless there would be some sort of ticket subsidy involved. Fat chance.) Yes, the area should be utilized for commercial and residential development, but at a reasonable scale, just not for this purported monstrosity.

And to those who favor the project, like Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who long for the area to become our answer to Manhattan's business and financial districts, I say, Get over your Brooklyn inferiority complex! Hopefully, Brooklyn will never be Manhattan, and that is nothing to be ashamed of, on the contrary. Yes, we should all strive for the betterment of the borough but without losing sight of the big picture, as it relates in this case to those who will irrevocably harmed by this monumental tribute to greed and shortsightedness. Those fashionably ironic t-shirts that announce "Defend Brooklyn" should add "from the Atlantic Yards fiasco!" It's only right.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rove Consultant Dies in Plane Crash Before Testifying in Election Fraud Case

Conspiracy theorists are abuzz with the tragic death of Mike Connell, who was Karl Rove's main internet guru and worked on campaigns for George W. Bush and John McCain. Connell had been deposed the day before this year's election and was set to testify in a case regarding alleged election tampering in Ohio in 2004.

Connell was flying alone in his private plane when it crashed in a residential neighborhood close to Akron, Ohio during Friday's evening rush hour. He was said to have been an experienced pilot.

UK's Telegraph:

The death of the married father of four immediately triggered conspiracy theories amid speculation that he had been about to reveal embarrassing details of the complicity of senior members of the Bush administration in fixing an election and destroying incriminating emails.

In a blog posting entitled "One of my sources died in a plane crash last night...", Larisa Alexandrovna of The Raw Story revealed that Mr Connell had been talking to her about the Ohio case alleging that vote-tampering during the 2004 presidential election resulted in civil rights violations.

"Mike was getting ready to talk. He was frightened... I am not saying that this was a hit nor am I resigned to this being simply an accident either. I am no expert on aviation and cannot provide an opinion on the matter. What I am saying, however, is that given the context, this event needs to be examined carefully."

Connell had reportedly requested Attorney General Mukasey grant him protective custody, fearing for his life. He also reported death threats against him to his attorney, Cliff Arnebeck.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rev. Wrong: The Rick Warren Mistake

Barack Obama has pledged to be inclusive and reach out to all sides of our incredibly divided country. A noble endeavor, yes. But with his selection of pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration he's made the equivalent of Bill Clinton's attempt at dismantling the military's 'Don't Ask-Don't Tell' policy right out of the gate: a worthy enterprise taken on a little too early that will ultimately backfire and erode support from key constituencies.

I can see Obama tapping Warren to be an advisor on conservative evangelical outreach or something of that nature, but this? Only choosing Rev. Jeremiah Wright for the occasion would've gotten him more grief.

(Btw, civil rights icon and progressive darling Rev. Joseph Lowery will be giving the official benediction at the Inauguration. Why not give Rev. Lowery the bigger spotlight and trade places with Warren?)

Monday, December 15, 2008

...and then, the other shoe dropped

I'm no fan of George W. Bush. Hell, I believe there are probably grounds for his impeachment and prison. But when he's abroad he's one thing and one thing only: my president and the physical symbol of my country. So, while everybody's having a hoot over W getting attacked with thrown shoes by an Iraqi "journalist" (yeah, how objective is this dude?), I'm not down with that level of disrespect. I believe in the old 'fight at home, united front outside' approach. So, if it happens here, it's a different story, but still...

And where the fuck was the Secret Service? Thinking of china patterns they'll pick when they come back? WTF?! Can you imagine the shitstorm if W had gotten shot or, God forbid, killed?! Yeah, the dude's leaving in a month, but come on, guys. (Can Obama--who will likely be more of an assassination target than any modern president--expect this level of lax protection, as well?)

But the most interesting thing to me, in all of this, is the mentality behind the Shiite shoe lobber's actions.

AP:
"He hates the American physical occupation as much as he hates the Iranian moral occupation," his brother Dhirgham said, alluding to the influence of pro-Iranian Shiite clerics in political and social life. "As for Iran, he considers the regime to be the other side of the American coin."

Sad, indeed. How many in Iraq feel that same way?

Friday, December 5, 2008

OJ Simpson Sentenced To Lengthy Jail Term

I'm not that averse to conspiracy theories: I don't think JFK was done in by Lee Harvey Oswald; 19 dudes with boxcutters sounds rather iffy; Kurt Cobain certainly did not commit suicide in my book; and I don't believe OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife and her fuck buddy. (At least not alone.) There's plenty of facts supporting these theories or at least underlining the presence of reasonable doubt vis-a-vis the official account, so if you disagree, don't just lazily flame me, look it up and make up your own mind.

Still basking in the glow of the historic election of a black president, I hate to get racial here, but I must. For no public figure has highlighted that particular divide in our country in modern times more than that of Orenthal James Simpson. I don't think that I'm trafficking in hyperbole by stating that only Osama Bin Laden is hated more than Simpson here in the US. Not one bit. It pained me to see the blatant hypocrisy in people that had stood up for the judicial system in so many instances when justice did not prevail to quickly and effortlessly turn around and decry the outcome of Simpson's murder trial when it didn't go their way. Suddenly and miraculously, these people discovered and qualified the system as broken. (And don't get me started on the whole 'not guilty but responsible' deal: according to one verdict Simpson was not liable but another verdict found him financially responsible. Give me a fucking break. Talk about a double standard...)

On a personal level, and as a person of color, I'll never forget seeing the reactions in my then place of employment a decade and a half ago, when the Simpson verdict went down and feeling that perhaps some of those people who I had befriended and even become close to, deep down might not feel the same way about me and others like me.

Fast forward to last year and the kind of irresponsible sensationalism the “news” people inflicted on the second most hated man in America, as he found himself in trouble with the law again.

The first mental picture I got from the “OJ Simpson Suspect In Casino Armed Robbery” headline bandied about the news that day, was Simpson cracking into a Vegas casino vault, and with
ski-masked, automatic rifle-toting accomplices making a getaway while hauling out a flatbed truck’s worth of cash. “Wow, he’s cracked. He got that desperate? Damn.” The evil, big, black man strikes fear into the hearts of America once again. Mission accomplished, indeed.

Later on it's uncovered that Simpson, having been alerted by an auction house of a secret sale of allegedly stolen memorabilia of his, went to a Vegas hotel room where the secret sale was being held to reclaim what he believed were his stolen belongings. He eventually was arrested and charged with multiple felonies in this case. But during the initial 48 hours of the case being reported, headlines announced what looked like the potential plot of Ocean’s Fourteen, and no one cared that a man may have been unfairly characterized in the media at this level. Of course not. After all, not even Hitler is as despised in this country as Simpson is. (Before you once again accuse me of hyperbole and invoke Godwin's Law ask yourself this: does OJ have hundreds of thousands of adoring adherents ready and willing to rise in his defense and, if necessary, kill innocent men, women and children in his name?) But I digress.

Today OJ Simpson was given to 8 to 33 years in jail for his part in the memorabilia recovery caper, which was deemed a hotel armed robbery and kidnapping by a judge who prefaced the sentence by stating it had nothing to do with a previous case. "I'm not here to try and cause any retribution or any payback for anything else." Really? Then why bring it up, your honor? If your sentence is fair and appropriate why the need to add a disclaimer? I'll bet dollars to donuts she won't make Keith Olbermann's "Worst Persons" list. And why did ESPN, after having their legal analyst opine on the sentencing, put up a statement by Fred Goldman, father of the slain Ron, but none from OJ's side? And speaking of the Goldmans, why were Fred and his daughter among only 15 members of the public who were admitted to the Nevada courtroom where OJ was sentenced, if this case had nothing to do with the one involving their loved one?

I'm not into football but I'm feeling a strong urge to purchase a #32 Buffalo Bills jersey right now.