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The Shady Ties Between de Blasio and the Clintons

The New Democrats, Same as the Old

By RICHARD KREITNER |  October 25, 2013

Last Monday, Hillary Clinton headlined a fundraiser at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan for Bill de Blasio, the man who managed her successful 2000 Senate campaign and last month declared himself “proud to come from the Clinton family.” Topping the list of co-chairs for the event—those who have promised to bundle $25,000 for de Blasio—was one Paul Adler, a Democratic power-broker in Rockland County, and a convicted felon.

Adler has long been a devoted supporter of de Blasio, whom he first met in 1996 when de Blasio ran the president’s re-election operation in New York. When Clinton named de Blasio her campaign manager in 1999, Adler told the Associated Press she would “benefit enormously” from such “a hands-on professional.”

In 2000, Rockland County was one of the most heavily contested swing districts in New York State, and Clinton faced tough opposition in former Rep. Rick Lazio, a social conservative well-liked by leaders in the ultra-Orthodox community. As chairman of the Rockland County Democratic Party, Adler was valuable enough to the Clintons that he was invited to spend a night at the White House, which he reciprocated by hosting Hillary at his home during her listening tours of the state. Serving as a delegate to Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August 2000, Adler was profiled by CNN as one of the “the folks who are the heart and soul of American politics.” He proudly told the camera:

My Rolodex is my most prized possession. It is a 25-year work in progress. It is the tool that enables me to do what I need to do: to get somebody at an embassy to get a donor who allows me to get the superintendent of highways. If the building was on fire, I would run in to get that first.

His main task was cultivating Jewish support in the county, especially among the various Hasidic sects, which often deliver votes in blocs on the strong recommendation of rabbinic leadership. Adler was especially close to New Square, a Skverer Hasidic village of about 7,000 people that may have the most political power per capita of any community in the United States. Its leader, Rabbi David Twersky is seen as infallible by his followers: on Shabbat, hundreds or even thousands of worshippers watch the rabbi eat precisely specified portions of food—so much whitefish, so much egg salad—and eagerly await the honor of consuming his leftovers. The village was most recently in the news in 2011 when a young goon allied with Twersky—the nephew of his top political aide, Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer—set fire to a 43-year old plumber and father-of-four named Aron Rottenberg, who had dared attend services at an outside shul.

In the 2000 Senate election, New Square voted 1400-12 in favor of Clinton, while nearby communities voted just as overwhelmingly for the pro-life Lazio. In December of that year, the senator-elect welcomed Twersky and other New Square leaders to the White House, where they asked the president to review the case of four Skverers who had been convicted two years earlier of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from federal education and housing programs. On his last day of office in January 2001, President Clinton commuted the sentences of the four men. The appearance of a possibly illegal quid pro quo involving New Square’s votes, as well as other suspicious Clinton pardons, prompted the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White (now head of the SEC), to launch an investigation the following month.

A March 2001 article in the New York Times about the case noted the government would have to prove that New Square’s votes represented a “thing of value” which could be traded illegally for commutations. Otherwise, however unseemly the appearance of a deal, nothing illegal could be proven to have occurred. That line would only have been crossed, experts said, had a monetary donation been specifically tied to a certain promised outcome, and no New Square leaders had contributed financially to Clinton’s campaign.

By the time the commutations were granted, de Blasio was already running for a spot on the New York City Council. On December 7th, 2000, just a month after Hillary’s election and two weeks before his and Twersky’s White House visit, New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer—the rebbe’s political liason to outsiders—attended a fundraiser in Manhattan for de Blasio’s council race, donating $2,500, the legal limit at the time. In August 2001, when the Village Voice asked de Blasio whether he had been questioned in White’s pardons investigation, he refused to say yes or no, only adding, “I’m waiting to hear what’s going to happen with that.”

Whether or not de Blasio ever did, the public never has. But given his leadership of Clinton’s campaign (with a specific portfolio, as one former Clinton aide recently told The Times, of soothing “many of the prickly political factions in New York State,” not a reference to cabdrivers), the timely Spitzer donation, and his relationship with Adler, it is almost impossible to conceive of the possibility that de Blasio did not at least know about New Square’s strategy for obtaining presidential pardons by showering Clinton with symbolically significant Jewish support—or, at most, participate in that strategy by helping procure for Twersky and Spitzer a much-desired visit to the White House to plead their case. Spitzer’s and, more recently and more extensively, Adler’s continued patronage of de Blasio’s political career at least gives the impression that the central figures of the New Square pardons episode remain deeply grateful toward Clinton’s former campaign manager, as they are towards this year’s Democratic candidate for Rockland County Executive, David Fried, another former Clinton aide who helped orchestrate the relationship between the village and the campaign at the time and has been endorsed by the ex-president. Either Spitzer and Adler are rewarding Fried and de Blasio for services rendered or they just happen to be supporting, financially and otherwise, the candidates who thirteen years ago were perfectly positioned to have helped them accomplish what was then their most urgent political—and for the New Square leaders, religious—goal.

In response to a series of questions about New Square and Paul Adler, de Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan wrote: “Bill is proud of his time working for the Clinton Administration and on Hillary’s Senate campaign. The facts clearly show he had no involvement in this matter.”

***

In 1997, when four Skverers—three from New Square and one from Brooklyn—were arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, the village refused to participate in the investigation. At one point a mob surrounded  federal agents trying to serve subpoenas. Three other men, including a founder of the village and the mayor’s son, fled to Israel, though those two were later caught and convicted. According to the Talmud, “pidyon shvuyim”—releasing Jewish captives held by gentiles—is one of the most important mitzvahs in Jewish law, and by the summer of 2000, the Skverer community was desperate to spring the men from prison.

Meanwhile, Clinton was struggling in her race against Lazio, having a hard time defeating the “carpet-bagger” label in her newly adopted home state, as well as a general Clinton fatigue. Worse, the Jewish community was apoplectic over the news that the First Lady embraced and kissed Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, just after she slurred Israel, and a new book was out claiming that as a 26-year-old, Clinton had allegedly yelled “You fucking Jew bastard!” at the manager of her then-boyfriend Bill’s unsuccessful 1974 congressional campaign in Arkansas. It became de Blasio’s job to make sure Jewish leaders like Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a longtime Brooklyn macher, at the very least didn’t publicly endorse Lazio.

But for Rockland County there was Adler, who knew the soft spot in the ordinarily Republican-voting Hasidic front. On August 8th, Adler coordinated the candidate’s visit to New Square. Clinton, wearing a head covering and a long black skirt, met with Twersky, Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and assorted Rockland County leaders at the rabbi’s home. The community “embraced her with a warmth that surprised and delighted her campaign team,” The Daily News reported the following year.

As Clinton’s efforts to woo Twersky intensified, the rabbi hatched a strategy to achieve his one goal: winning the release of his four followers from prison. On August 25th, two weeks after Clinton’s visit, a Manhattan appeals court rejected a motion to overturn the convictions. With Adler, Clinton visited New Square again in mid-September, and according to two different accounts, one given to the News and one to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it was either that month or the next when Twersky told Nathan Lewin, the Orthodox Washington lawyer representing the convicted villagers, of his plan to deliver overwhelming support in New Square for Clinton’s Senate bid in order to convince her husband to grant pardons—or at least commutations—to the four men. “I thought he was out of his mind,” Lewin recalled to the News at the time. (In a phone call, Lewin denied having had any knowledge of the rabbi’s plan.)

But sure enough, commutations of the men’s sentences were among the nearly 177 pardons and other remissions Bill Clinton granted during his final days in office. Newly installed as a senator, Hillary Clinton denied reports that she had attended a meeting before the election at which Twersky’s request for pardons was discussed. “Sen. Clinton doesn’t recall ever being present during any discussion of clemency for the New Square people prior to December 2000,” Clinton’s lawyer in the case, David Kendall, told the Daily News. In March 2001, FBI investigators visited the New Square Village Hall and Israel Spitzer’s home. Silver, several Rockland officials, and numerous Clinton staffers—some of whom launched legal defense funds for themselves—testified before a grand jury with lawyers provided and paid for by an unidentified source. But White’s successor as U.S. Attorney, James Comey (now head of the FBI), closed the investigation in 2002, without filing any charges, after 9/11 prompted a redistribution of resources and George W. Bush decided it was bad karma to go after his predecessor.

***

Meanwhile, on September 12th, 2000, just a day after being mentioned by The New York Post’s Fred Dicker as a possible replacement for the outgoing state party chair, Adler had been arrested and charged with embezzling at least $375,000 in corrupt real estate deals through bribery, extortion, and mail fraud, including $135,500 for “public relations consulting work” from the developer of the massive Palisades Center mall in West Nyack, which he then funneled through a shell company. According to the complaint, Adler told associates, “If you can’t help your friends, then why get into some of these positions?’” He added that he had not become chairman of the county party to “lose money.” The schemes were similar to the one that in 1987 led to charges against Adler and two associates of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the state government of $20 million in a complicated real estate deal involving a business partner of Governor Mario Cuomo’s son, Andrew; Adler was acquitted on all charges. This time, he was represented by the Bronx-based lawyer Murray Richman, who has made an illustrious career of defending mobsters. (In 2009, Richman bragged to filmmaker Errol Morris: “I had a trial in which my client stabbed the guy in the back four times—uh, no, uh, seven times—and my defense was he kept backing into the knife. And the jury bought it!”)

Responding to demands from Lazio that Clinton return Adler’s donations, a spokeswoman for the First Lady said, “Hillary knows that this is a difficult time for Paul and his family and she wishes them well.” Though the two inquiries were kept separate, as part of the Southern District investigation into Clinton’s pardons the FBI seized two boxes of documents from the Rockland County Democratic Party headquarters, dated 1996-2000: the exact years of Adler’s term as party chair. He faced up to 60 years in prison, but was sentenced to only 19 months in medium-security Otisville penitentiary in a plea bargain his lawyers were careful to assure the Times did not include cooperation with the pardons investigation. In the Post Jack Newfield reported that it was the non-Orthodox Adler who, on that Shabbat morning in January, delivered the news about the commutations to New Square, which Adler’s lawyer denied.

It isn’t clear how much of the New Square portfolio fell to de Blasio in Adler’s absence during the final months of Clinton’s Senate campaign. But it was clearly de Blasio who benefited most from the financial largesse of the community, when Twersky’s aide Spitzer donated $2,500 to what was widely seen as a long-shot run for an open City Council seat in Brooklyn. The district—Brooklyn’s 39th—straddled Park Slope and Borough Park, the urban stronghold of ultra-Orthodox leaders. But the Skverers represent a vanishingly small part of the Borough Park community, and participate almost not at all in its power structure. While Spitzer’s father, Avraham Chaim Spitzer, is a rabbi whose shul is in Borough Park, the synagogue is not in de Blasio’s district. Besides his $2,500 donation to de Blasio’s 2001 council race; a $250 donation to de Blasio’s 2005 re-election bid; and a $3,850 donation to his 2009 public advocate campaign, Spitzer has never before or since donated to a New York City political candidate. Not in Borough Park, not anywhere, not ever: Spitzer’s financial interest in city politics is wholly restricted to de Blasio’s career.

If you are Israel Spitzer, why donate to the nascent, long-shot bid for city council—a city, of course, which you don’t live in—by the guy who just ran the Senate campaign of a woman whose husband is President of the United States and therefore has the unilateral power to grant your most dire political wish? Was he buying access to the Clintons through de Blasio?

“There is no connection whatsoever,” Spitzer said when reached by phone last week. “My relationship to Bill de Blasio is as a councilman and public advocate. We have institutions all over, in Borough Park, in Williamsburg. New Square is not just New Square.”

Did you meet de Blasio when he was working on Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign?

“It has nothing to do with the Senate campaign or Hillary. We know him through various activities over the years.”

Your first donation to de Blasio came just a month after the end of Hillary’s campaign, and two weeks before your meeting at the White House with the Clintons.

“I was introduced to him when he decided to run for office, and I thought he was the right candidate.”

“What people may see is obvious,” says Alexander Rapoport, a de Blasio supporter who runs Masbia, a network of kosher soup kitchens that cater to the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn. “Obviously, they did vote for her and they were pardoned. They don’t need for explanation. The eye sees what it sees.”

***

“We are supporting him 100%,” Spitzer says of de Blasio’s current campaign. “Not with financial support, but with access support, other support. We’re helping get communities to endorse him.”

Indeed, though he has given $2,500 to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 re-election bid, Spitzer has not yet contributed money to de Blasio’s mayoral race.

But Paul Adler has.

For a while after his release, in 2004, Adler kept a low-profile, but as the Rockland County Times noted in March, he has been staging a major comeback in the past three years, winning awards for philanthropy from the Rockland Development Council and for service to the Rockland Business Association, and serving on the boards of several Jewish community organizations. Adler has also regained his real estate license—impossible for a convicted felon in many states—and was hired in 2010 as a vice-president of Rockland-based Rand Commercial, where he tends to blend economic and political boosterism in equal parts. While Adler’s interests may be tangled, they rarely seem to conflict.

Rand Commercial is the leading firm invested in properties adjacent to the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement—Gov. Cuomo’s signature infrastructure project—and Adler has served as chief promoter for the project in local media. “It is pretty clear that when we build it, they will come,” Adler has said—a revealing use of the personal plural. “Business creates more business.” Rand has an entire website devoted to the new bridge, listing newly valuable properties for lease near the site, trumpeting Cuomo’s declarations of its necessity, and promising an economic windfall for adjacent communities. Any information Adler may have been privy to related to the bridge’s construction could have been easily and lucratively parlayed into business for Rand Commercial, but perhaps it is only attributable to coincidence or a keen sense for timing that Adler brokered the deal that will move the state police and New York State Thruway Authority facilities to a vacant warehouse owned by a Rand client in West Nyack.

Adler has also championed a projected desalination plant on the Hudson River proposed by United Water, serving the company as an advocate, pressing Rockland officials and community groups like the NAACP to support the plant over the objections of environmentalists, while encouraging the Cuomo administration to approve it. He was also recently admitted to the bar, which requires letters of recommendation vouching that the candidate possesses “the necessary character to justify the trust and confidence that clients, the public and the legal system will place in them.” Bar applications are sealed and confidential under state law.

This summer, when former state senator Nicholas Spano—who worked at Rand before being convicted of tax fraud in 2012—sought a judge’s permission to communicate with his fellow ex-con, a local paper quoted Adler advising Spano to think of redemption as “really a journey, not a destination.”

Adler’s journey has included a sharp spike in political fundraising activities—an activity the Adlers never seem to have taken much interest in before his arrest, and is perhaps an attempt to buy back the influence he lost. Since 2005, the Adler household has sprinkled more than $50,000 among dozens of local, state, and federal campaigns—including to Andrew Cuomo. He has held events at his home for Rep. Nita Lowey, a Westchester Democrat, and earlier this month hosted a major fundraiser for David Fried, the Democratic candidate for Rockland County Executive and a former White House advance aide for the Clintons who grew up in nearby Spring Valley, adjacent to New Square. A person who was involved in Rockland politics at the time said that in the fall of 2000, with Adler in prison, Fried pressed those who controlled the president’s schedule to fit in a visit to New Square, just across the Hudson from Chappaqua, where the Clintons had bought a home to facilitate Hillary’s Senate bid. According to the person, who is backing Fried in his current campaign, Fried was on the phone with Spitzer constantly at the time. Bill Clinton endorsed Fried earlier this year, saying he “worked closely” with the advance aide, and in the September primary New Square took the extraordinary step of splitting their usual bloc vote, throwing enough votes to Fried to defeat his opponent Ilan Schoenberger, the village’s long-time political patron who also attended the August 2000 meeting with Hillary Clinton.

The Facebook page for last Sunday’s “Democratic Unity Event” for Fried at Adler’s palatial home in New City, a secular community a few minutes’ drive from New Square, said “Everyone is welcome,” and the open door on a drizzly Sunday morning seemed to emphasize the point. In her rousing speech (“We need someone who’s gonna take us out of this darkness and into the light!”), Kristen Stavisky, Adler’s successor as Democratic county chair, named and drew applause for all the “electeds” in the room—all the public officials, that is, including sitting judges, willing to attend a fundraiser in a disgraced ex-convict’s home: David Carlucci, state senator; James Skoufis, assemblyman; Ellen Jaffee, assemblywoman; Christopher St. Lawrence, Mayor of Ramapo (whose town hall was raided in May by the FBI, investigating the construction of a widely-scorned baseball stadium midwifed, according to Skriloff and others, by Adler); Louis Falco, Rockland County Sherriff; and many more. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a staffer. When Adler took the floor he especially called out New Square’s Spitzer, standing just to the side, for recognition. I can tell you that I’ve personally spoken with the governor,” Adler told a captivated room. “The governor will be in to campaign on this. Senator Schumer will be in. Senator Gillibrand will be in. The entire state delegation is going to be down here.”

“I don’t think candidates for political office should actively seek and obtain support, including financial, from a convicted federal felon,” says Michael Bongiorno, who as Rockland County District Attorney in 2000 helped put Adler behind bars. “I think it shows extremely poor judgment on the part of anyone who does so.”

“He is very involved with the community,” Fried says, explaining his willingness to accept Adler’s support. “He was recently admitted as an attorney, which required passage of the ‘Character and Fitness’ test. He is one of the largest donors to community programs and agencies including the JCC, and he is very involved with numerous organizations that are important to me.”

Last week, as Hillary Clinton hosted the Roosevelt Hotel event for de Blasio, her husband attended a fundraiser for Fried. Despite his $25,000 co-chairmanship of the de Blasio fundraiser, rumor has it Adler attended Fried’s. Through a spokesman, Fried declined a follow-up request for comment about his role in obtaining the New Square commutations.

“Adler is part of a small cabal that controls Rockland County,” says Robert Rhodes, a self-described left-wing Democrat who is president of the anti-developers group Preserve Ramapo, which has endorsed Fried’s Republican opponent Ed Day in the county executive race. “He’s a guy who goes to prison, then comes back here raising money for the county Democratic machine.”

***

And not only for the county machine.

Last January, the day before formally declaring his candidacy for the mayoral race, de Blasio wrote on Facebook, “My family is making a very important announcement at our home in Park Slope tomorrow.” Adler’s comment, the very first on the page, was simple: “Good luck.”

But Adler knew it would take more than luck to elect the long-shot de Blasio, having already hosted a Rockland County meet-and-greet for the candidate at his home and, along with Clinton alum Harold Ickes, co-chaired a high-dollar fundraiser for de Blasio at the Waldorf Astoria in 2010, widely seen as the first public hint of de Blasio’s mayoral aspirations and of Clintonian support. Adler has donated $1,500 so far to the mayoral campaign, while his wife Mary and son Samuel, who both also happen to work for Rand Commercial, have donated $4,950 and $250 to de Blasio, respectively, and their daughter, who was hired by Gov. Cuomo as a press officer for the state’s economic development agency, has donated $425. Adler attended de Blasio’s victory party in Gowanus on primary night last month.

Written by Adler and graced with his visage, the official Twitter feed of Rand Commercial—which does not handle city-based properties—spends a lot of time concerned with the New York City mayoral campaign:

Reached by phone, Adler praised de Blasio’s “very progressive mindset” and declared his belief that “the winds are blowing for change.” When asked whether de Blasio played any role in the New Square pardons, Adler said Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager “didn’t have anything to do with that, he had nothing to do with anything.” Asked whether he recalled de Blasio attending any meetings between Clinton and the village leaders, Adler said no, called this reporter “sleazebag” twice, and hung up.

The response de Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan e-mailed did not address questions concerning Paul Adler—including whether the candidate has ever discussed New Square with him. A subsequent request for comment has not been returned.

But on Monday, when Adler sent his announcement about chairing the Clinton/de Blasio fundraiser—from his Rand Commercial e-mail account—he wrote:

We are all inextricably linked together, so let’s be active participants in making history once again.

I know I am always asking to you to support this cause or that candidate, but, we always seem to in the right place at the right time, and this time is no exception.

Richard Kreitner is a writer and researcher in New York City. He is on Twitter at @richardkreitner and can be reached at richard.kreitner [at] gmail.com.

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November 9, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Volcanic Eruption of ‘Jewish Values’?

A precise definition of the term “Jewish values” seems curiously absent from the public sphere. But maybe we can come up with one of our own…

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By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | October 25, 2013

We often hear the term “Jewish values” bandied about these days (primarily by Jews, it seems) yet seldom, if ever, do we hear it defined. What exactly does it mean? Are people who use it trying to imply that the moral values of Jews are somehow superior to those held by the rest of us?

Type the term “Jewish values” into Google and you get back more than 24 million results. At the top of the list is a website called JewishValuesOnline.org. The site is taglined “multi Jewish perspectives on morals and ethics” and offers rabbinical opinions on a variety of political and social issues, such as gun control, but nowhere on the site does there seem to be an actual definition of the term.

Wikipedia has no entry on “Jewish values”—however, there is a Wikipedia entry on “Jewish ethics.” The article starts off with the following somewhat convoluted paragraph:

Jewish ethics are considered to be at the intersection of Judaism and the Western philosophical tradition of ethics. Like other types of religious ethics, the diverse literature of Jewish ethics primarily aims to answer a broad range of moral questions and, hence, may be classified as a normative ethics. For two millennia, Jewish thought has also grappled with the dynamic interplay between law and ethics. The tradition of rabbinic religious law (known as halakhah) addresses numerous problems often associated with ethics, including its semi-permeable relation with duties that are usually not punished under law.

A few years ago an Israeli rabbi by the name of Yitzhak Shapira published a book entitled The King’s Torah, in which he justified the killing of non-Jewish children. “There is justification in harming [non-Jewish] infants if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us,” Shapira writes. “Under such circumstances the blow can be directed at them and not only by targeting adults.” Perhaps that’s what Wikipedia means by the “semi-permeable relation” between Jewish ethics and “duties that are usually not punished under law.” So far as I’m aware, not a single Israeli soldier has ever been prosecuted for killing a Palestinian child.

A few days ago the Jewish JTA website published an article on a one million dollar “Jewish Nobel Prize” that is to be handed out to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Termed “the Genesis Prize,” the award is to be presented by the Genesis Prize Foundation. A relatively new outfit, established only last year, the Genesis Foundation is an offshoot of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, described as “a consortium of mega-wealthy philanthropist-businessmen from the former Soviet Union including Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan; the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel; and the Jewish Agency for Israel.”

Fridman, Aven, and Khan apparently go back a good many years together. All three have been involved with Alfa Group, a Russian banking and investment consortium, and in 2005 Fridman found himself caught up in a privitazation scandal in which property belonging to the Russian government was sold at prices significantly below market value.

The website Russian Mafia contains “dossiers” on all three men (see Fridman, Aven, and Khan respectively), with Khan being named as “Herman” Khan (though still apparently the same man). Naturally I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information there, but the dossiers do make interesting reading.

The award to be presented to Bloomberg is the first annual Genesis Prize ever awarded. The article doesn’t exactly specify why the New York mayor was selected—but it does offer a quote from him:

“Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy,” he said.

Just why Mr. Bloomberg would think it important to mention this can perhaps be gleaned from a New York Times article on the Geneis Prize published back in June. “A charity founded by Russian Jewish billionaires is establishing a $1 million annual award for excellence in virtually any field, to honor those people who attribute their success to Jewish values.”—thus reads the opening sentence. The fact that the reporter, David M. Herzenhorn, would fail to enclose the words “Jewish values” in quotes would suggest he takes it for granted his readers know what the term means and that presumably they all understand that Jews have the most superlative values on earth. Who after all would doubt it?

But hey—take note! Here we have a whole prize (worth a cool $1 million no less) to be offered on an annual basis to that one lucky soul on earth deemed to exemplify “Jewish values” moreso than any other.

Perhaps the people of New York will breathe a sigh of relief now, knowing their mayor was singled out for such an honor. Yet still, sadly, we have no definition of the term (read Herzenhorn’s article from top to bottom and you’ll not fine one), and thus our quest is not over. But take heart! Perhaps a clue can be gleaned from a recent article in the Jewish newspaper, The Forward.

On October 21, The Forward published a story on a series of scandals that have engulfed Jewish charities and institutions over the past year. None of this is new. Each scandal, one after the other, had been reported previously on an individual, piecemeal basis, but what The Forward does is provide an overview of the whole mishmash as it has glissaded through the Jewish socio/cultural landscape:

The worst year for Jewish charities since the Madoff debacle in 2008 started in late December 2012, when the Forward reported that Yeshiva University’s longtime former president Rabbi Norman Lamm had admitted to covering up allegations of sex abuse of high school students from the 1970s through the ’90s. Alleged victims soon filed a $380 million lawsuit against the school.

Then, in May, the Forward reported that top officials at the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which distributes aid to Holocaust victims, had been warned of fraud being perpetrated by employees eight years before a full investigation uncovered a multi-million dollar scam.

Things got even darker over the summer. In July, the 92nd Street Y fired its executive director, Sol Adler, after learning of Adler’s affair with his assistant, Catherine Marto. His affair, though embarrassing, wasn’t the worst of it. Marto’s son-in-law was the Y’s head of facilities, and was accused of taking kickbacks from vendors on construction projects. The Y shouldn’t have been surprised: He had pleaded guilty in 1999 in a Mafia-backed Wall Street fraud.

All those scandals were just a warm-up for the firing in August of William Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and one of the largest figures on the New York Jewish not-for-profit scene. Rapfogel was charged in September with stealing $5 million from Met Council in a two-decade kickback scheme. His predecessor at Met Council, Rabbi Dovid Cohen, resigned in September from his current job running the Jewish ambulance service Hatzolah.

The story also quotes an official who heads a “Center for Jewish Ethics” at a Pennsylvania rabbinical college who seems quite pained about the whole thing. “It (the series of scandals) has definitely shaken a lot of people’s confidence,” he comments before going on to express the view that “greater controls and better training” are needed for the people who run these Jewish institutions.

Yes, perhaps that will solve the whole problem.

A little bit more on the looting of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty can be found here:

Allegedly, Rapfogel and the Met Council diverted truckloads of food meant to feed the poor to a politically powerful Williamsburg hasidic businessman who owns a very large kosher supermarket. That hasidic businessman sold the food; the poor got none of it. It is unclear how much the businessman allegedly paid the Met Council under the table for the food or what percentage of profits was allegedly used to grease politicians. This businessman’s supermarket was also allegedly the only supermarket in Williamsburg authorized to take Met Council food vouchers. What the businessman had to pay Rapfogel for that monopoly is unclear.

The 92nd Street Y, one of the other scandal funnel clouds mentioned in The Forward article, apparently was formed as the Jewish equivalent to the YMCA, and much like the latter, it offers fitness programs, rooms for rent, cultural events, and the like. Its formal name is The Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association. Go here and you can see a list of famous people who have visited its facilities in New York.

All in all, what are we to make of it? Scandals galore—almost on the magnitude of a volcanic eruption—a spewing lava of corruption cascading down the slopes of what ostensibly are the most “noble” components of the Jewish community in America? Do the people connected in one way or another to these activities still regard themselves as God’s “chosen people”? If the answer to that is yes, then does this view of themselves persist in spite of their involvement in these exploitive self-enrichment schemes—or perhaps because of it?

Knowing the answer to that would help us to develop a clear definition of the term “Jewish values.”

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recent Revelations Prompt Motion To Block NYPD’s Surveillance Of Muslims

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | October 4, 2013

A recent investigative report on the NYPD’s surveillance of mosques has led to a possible revisiting of the Handschu Agreement by the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit filed against the city seeking to bar further surveillance of Muslims in New York City.

According to the 1985 ruling, the Handschu Agreement limited indiscriminate surveillance of purely political activity. If such surveillance was to take place, it first had to be approved by the three-member Handschu Authority and performed only by the specially-designated Public Security Section, a division of NYPD Intelligence. It also prohibited the videotaping or photographing of large public gatherings when there was no indication of criminal activity and forbade the sharing of information with outside agencies unless they agreed to be bound by the limitations of the Agreement.

This is what was assumed to be in place. When the plaintiffs filed in February, their attorney pointed out that the police activity that had been observed clearly violated those limitations.

The police measures directed at Muslims violate the Handschu decree “because they’re not rooted in the fact that there’s a criminal predicate,” said plaintiff attorney Paul Chevigny. “They’re rooted in the fact that the subjects are Muslims.”

It was exactly as it looked: Muslims being placed under surveillance simply because they attended certain mosques — mosques the NYPD had declared to be “terrorist organizations.”

The city has countered by claiming that it closely observes the Handschu guidelines when making decisions about how to fight terror. A city lawyer, Peter Farrell, told the judge on Tuesday that the department launches investigations based on evidence of legitimate threats, not on religion.

“It’s undeniable that New York City remains at the center of the threat by Islamists who have been radicalized to violence,” he said.

What the city lawyer’s conveniently left out was that the Handschu guidelines had been deliberately weakened by the NYPD, thanks to the efforts of a former CIA officer and his CIA liaison, who formed a so-called “Demographics Group” that was charged with monitoring activity by the city’s Muslims.

[T]he activities that [CIA liaison Larry] Sanchez and [former senior CIA officer David] Cohen were proposing would not have been permitted under the Handschu guidelines. So, on September 12, 2002, Cohen filed a 23-page document in federal court asking a judge to throw out the guidelines and give his officers more leeway.

Cohen insisted that the world had changed since Al Qaeda attacked America, and the NYPD needed to change with it. “These changes were not envisioned when the Handschu guidelines were agreed upon,” he wrote, “and their continuation dangerously limits the ability of the NYPD to protect the people it is sworn to serve.”

The severely watered-down Handschu guidelines were approved by Judge Charles Haight. The name remained unchanged and most New Yorkers were unaware that hardly any limitations remained tied to the Agreement.

After securing this expanded definition (which also thoroughly abused the word “related”), the Demographics Group proceeded to declare entire mosques as “terrorist organizations” and began constant surveillance of their members. And, contrary to what the city’s lawyer declared, it has yet to be proven by the NYPD or anyone else that New York is the “center of the threat by Islamists.” The NYPD has spent millions of dollars and thousands of manhours surveilling and investigating Muslims and has turned up exactly zero useful leads.

When the plaintiffs filed this case, they had no idea the Handschu guidelines had been so thoroughly eviscerated. Armed with this new knowledge, the plaintiffs have asked the city to turn over so-called “investigative statements” related to these surveillance operations. The city won’t even meet them halfway, offering only to turn over a “handful” for the plaintiffs’ lawyers to view without making them part of the public record.

Technically, the city is correct: the NYPD is following the guidelines, as they have been altered, not as they were originally written.

The presiding judge says he will rule at a later date. However, one key factor is problematic. The presiding judge is Charles Haight, the same judge who agreed to relax those rules for the NYPD back in 2002. When he says something like this, it’s hard to know how to take it.

“I’ve come to think of this case as a volcano that’s asleep most of the time … but every now and then blows up,” U.S. District Judge Charles Haight said at the start of a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

This “volcano” is at least partially of his own making. Haight knows how few restrictions remain under those guidelines. The NYPD can “closely observe” the relaxed Handschu guidelines and still place entire mosques under surveillance. The protections remaining are so weak and the scope of what is deemed “terrorist-related” so broad that even the CIA itself is unable to use the information collected by the Demographics Unit because doing so means violating CIA policies regarding domestic surveillance.

But it appears (although details are incredibly light) that Haight may revisit his own decision relaxing those guidelines. His upcoming ruling will determine whether the near-useless offer the city’s lawyer made will be sufficient or if the city will need to cough up what’s been requested: investigative statements related to “any operation targeting Muslims.” Haight will also make the call as to whether the documents will remain “off the record.”

The NYPD has never been very responsive when asked to turn over information, but considering this order may come from a federal judge, rather than a member of the public, the response time might be a little quicker. As for the plaintiffs, it would seem they drew possibly the least sympathetic judge to hear this case. But who knows, maybe Haight’s had a change of heart over the years. Many rash legislative and legal decisions were made shortly after the 9/11 attacks and there have been more than a few who have expressed regret for their decisions or dismay at the continual expansion of already-broad policies. Haight might be one of the ones who regrets his decision. Fortunately, he’s still in a position to make some changes.

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Without Any Legal Basis, The NYPD Has Been Classifying Its Own Documents For More Than A Decade

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | September 19, 2013

Under the guidance of Chief Ray Kelly and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the NYPD has transformed into an autonomous militarized force. Technically, it answers to Bloomberg and Kelly, but they’ve both shown extreme amounts of resistance to reining in any of the PD’s excesses.

Any attempts at bringing oversight and accountability to the force are met with anger and condescension, despite the fact that the NYPD’s casual abuse of New Yorker’s civil liberties are the subject of major lawsuits and city council legislation, as well as a sizable contributor to the city’s annual outlay of $700-800 million in settlements.

We’ve previously discussed the department’s secretiveness that has seen it described by investigative journalists as worse than the NSA and FBI when it comes to responding to FOI requests. (Not for nothing does the New York law governing these requests do business under the acronym “FOIL.”) But the NYPD is doing something no other city law enforcement agency has done: classifying its own documents.

Since at least 2003, the New York Police Department has been labeling some of its internal documents “Secret,” a designation that has baffled government secrecy experts, journalists and civil liberties lawyers.

By labeling documents “secret,” the Intelligence Division appears to be operating its own in-house classification system, similar to those used at federal agencies like the CIA, where Intel’s chief, David Cohen, previously worked for 35 years.

Some of the documents also include the caveat, in all-caps, that “No portion of this document can be copied or distributed without the exclusive permission of the policy commissioner or deputy commissioner of intelligence.”

Why is this “baffling?” Because the NYPD’s in-house classification system has nothing legal to back it up.

“You know what that [label] means? It means diddly,” said Robert Freeman, executive director of New York’s Committee on Open Government. “I think the police department is following the lead of the federal government. The difficulty is, in my opinion, it does not have a legal basis for doing that.”

Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, told HuffPost he has only seen the label on documents created after 2001. He agreed with Freeman that “as far as I know, this marking has no legal significance.”

The NYPD remains a law unto itself. Bloomberg has referred to it as the “seventh biggest army in the world” (and his own “personal army”) and has, over the course of his three terms, indulged every excess. It should be noted that former CIA officer David Cohen got the ball rolling on the civil liberties-violating “Demographics Group” (the one that labeled entire mosques as terrorist entities) late in 2002, which would explain the noticeable uptick in “SECRET” documents in 2003. Nothing drives overclassification more than a combination of dubious legality and working hand-in-hand with national intelligence agency liaisons.

And it would appear that the NYPD still has lots of secrets it’s not willing to share with the public. HuffPo points to this story from 2011 in which Chief Kelly makes the claim that the NYPD could “take down an airplane” thanks to its anti-aircraft weaponry. That itself should be troubling enough and a strong indicator that Bloomberg and Kelly are better qualified to run a banana republic than an American city, but when asked to comment on the PD’s anti-aircraft guns, Bloomberg responded with this smirk of a statement:

“New York City Police Department has lots of capabilities you don’t know about and you won’t know about them.”

That’s comforting. Nothing like having the commander-in-chief of the “seventh biggest army in the world” tell you his force might have even bigger tricks up its sleeve than anti-aircraft weapons.

On the bright side, Mayor for life Bloomberg will be leaving soon and the front runner for his position, Bill De Blasio, gave the police force a failing grade for its responsiveness to FOI requests and will be likely looking to force the PD to shoot for a low-C at minimum. If Chief Kelly sticks around, though, De Blasio will have an uphill battle to fight against the ingrained arrogance and contempt that pervades the NYPD’s upper management.

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Constitutionally Illiterate Michael Bloomberg Doesn’t Want the DOJ Monitoring His Stop-and-Frisk “Military”

By Mike Riggs | Reason | June 14, 2013

In November 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told an audience at MIT, “I don’t listen to Washington very much, which is something they’re not thrilled about.” He didn’t listen because he didn’t have to. “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world,” Bloomberg bragged.

That boast–crude and alarming as it was–sort of just hung in the air, slowly losing its stench. Yesterday, Bloomberg revived it, this time while announcing that he didn’t want the Justice Department overseeing the NYPD in the event a federal judge deems stop-and-frisk unconstitutional.

WNYC News reports:

The U.S. Department of Justice filed papers Wednesday saying that if a federal judge ruled the NYPD’s practices unconstitutional, then the DOJ would strongly endorse the use of a monitor to oversee changes at the department.

The mayor, however, said that the police department needs a clear line of authority. “No military organization or paramilitary runs where you have confusion in the command structure. You just cannot have that. Lives are on the line,” he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters.

Emphasis mine. The NYPD is not a “military organization” or an “army,” much less Bloomberg’s “own army.” Nor is the NYPD a “paramilitary organization”–that would require the department to change its core function to supporting an actual military. The NYPD is a police department. New York, New York is a city, not a sovereign nation. The 14th Amendment says Bloomberg and his police are required to respect the Fourth Amendment. This is basic stuff. You’d think Bloomberg would know it.

As for his claim that federal supervision of a police department that regularly violates the constitutional rights of New Yorkers “would create confusion in the command structure”? New York cops say there’s plenty of that already, thanks to their union working with commanding officers to create confusing and possibly illegal quotas for stopping, frisking, and arresting minority residents. In the event that a federal court deems stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, there will be that much more confusion at the NYPD. Bringing in an outside body–one tasked with making sure the department respects the constitutional rights of New Yorkers–would provide the department with a much needed moral compass.

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

NYPD Cops Arrest Woman Recording Them, Apparently Stealing Wrong Memory Card

By Carlos Miller | Photography is Not a Crime | May 18, 2013

New York City police officers arrested a woman who was video recording them from a public sidewalk as they conducted some type of “vehicle safety checkpoint.”

The officers apparently stole a memory card from a camera, which turned out to be the wrong one, allowing us to view the video.

In the Youtube description, under the headline, “You stole the wrong SD card,” Christina Gonzalez said her boyfriend was also arrested.

We were arrested while filming an NYPD checkpoint on a bridge between a soon to be gentrified Bronx and a quickly gentrifying Harlem. We were charged with OGA, DisCon, and resisting arrest. I was holding a bag of yarn in one hand and a canvas in the other. My partner had food in his hands when he was tackled. Even though their violent actions were unjust, we did not resist. Simultaneous with our “arrests”, the checkpoint was closed down.

We were held for 25 hours.

OGA is obstructing government administration, which generally requires the person to physically obstruct police from doing their job.

According to a New York attorney:

Generally, If you impair or obstruct the administration of law or prevent a public servant (often a police officer) from performing his or her official duty and function, then you have committed this crime. However, the other crucial element is that this intentional obstruction be done through intimidation, interference, physical force or an independently unlawful act.

But Gonzalez didn’t appear to be doing any of the above. She was peppering the cops with questions as to what they were doing and one sergeant tried to answer a question before telling her he wasn’t going to answer more questions.

She kept peppering him with questions, which prompted him to order her to move away.

When she refused, he demanded identification, which she also refused to provide.

That led to her arrest.

I sent her a message asking her to clarify about the memory card. Will update when she responds.

UPDATE: Mickey Osterreicher just emailed the following:

See the following from the NYPD Patrol Guide under PG 208-03 Arrests – General Processing, effective 01-01-2000 that came as a result of a 1977 Consent Decree between NYPD and the NYCLU. In pertinent part that section reads as follows:

OBSERVERS AT THE SCENE OF POLICE INCIDENTS
As a rule, when a police officer stops, detains or arrests a person in a public area, persons who happen to be in or are attached to the area are naturally in position to and are allowed to observe the police officer’s actions. This right to observe is, of course, limited by reasons of safety to all concerned and as long as there is no substantive violation of law. The following guidelines should be utilized by police officers whenever the above situation exists:
a. A person remaining in the vicinity of a stop or arrest shall not be subject to arrest for Obstructing Governmental Administration (Penal Law, Section 195.05) unless the officer has probable cause to believe the person or persons are obstructing governmental administration.
b. None of the following constitutes probable cause for arrest or detention of an onlooker unless the safety of officers or other persons is directly endangered or the officer reasonably believes they are endangered or the law is otherwise violated:
(1) Speech alone, even though crude and vulgar
(2) Requesting and making notes of shield numbers or names of officers
(3) Taking photographs, videotapes or tape recordings
(4) Remaining in the vicinity of the stop or arrest.
c. Whenever an onlooker is arrested or taken into custody, the arresting officer shall request the patrol supervisor to the scene, or if unavailable, report the action to the supervisor where the person is taken.
This procedure is not intended in any manner to limit the authority of the police to establish police lines, e.g., crowd control at scenes of fires, demonstrations, etc.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

New York Muslims protest police surveillance

RT | March 12, 2013

A new report by a coalition of Muslims has shed further light on the NYPD’s controversial surveillance program of the Muslim community, which they say generates widespread fear and has a “chilling effect” on their lives.

The New York Police Department has been found to spy on Muslims in mosques, restaurants, halal shops, cafes, hookah bars and other public places and has long outraged potential victims of the surveillance. Whether praying, conversing with friends, or walking down the street, the NYPD deploys cops that are always watching.

The surveillance “has stifled speech, communal life and religious practice and criminalized a broad segment of American Muslims,” Nermeen Arastu, fund attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told the Wall Street Journal.

The new report, compiled by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition and its partners, specifically outlines the effect of the NYPD’s intimidation on New York City Muslims. As a result of sending spies throughout the city, some Muslims have stopped trusting anyone, fearful that something they say or do could land them in prison.

“Undercover Pakistani officers were sent into Pakistani communities and Arab-speaking officers were dispatched into the Egyptian community to ‘listen to neighborhood gossip’, and get an overall ‘feel for the community,’ ” the report says “They were instructed to visit schools and interact with business owners and patrons to ‘gauge sentiment.’”

By participating in school field trips and local cricket matches, undercover cops have crept into the personal lives of American Muslims, searching for any sign of illegal or terrorist intentions. The report, titled “Mapping Muslims”, claims that the far-reaching extent of the surveillance program has taken a toll on the Muslim community.

“[The NYPD] has repeatedly said that as long as you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” Diala Shamas, co-author of the report, told the Huffington Post. Instead, she said the study “shows that there are many disturbing impacts and consequences of the irresponsible, costly, harmful, completely ineffective surveillance program.”

Muslim college groups now forbid any discussion of politics, practicing Muslims have avoided mosques, and others have simply avoided making any sort of jokes that could be misinterpreted.

“People tell me ‘I’ll make mysalaah [prayer] at home.’ They mention the NYPD camera right outside the mosque as the reason,” Imam Mustapha, a Brooklyn-based religious leader, told authors of the report.

At some mosques, Muslims no longer trust religious leaders, fearing that they could be reporting to the NYPD.

“The relationship of trust and confidentiality between an imam and his congregation is no less sacred than that of pastors, rabbis and others, and those of whom they serve,” said Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Maklis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan New York. “The actions of the NYPD have compromised this sacred relationship… It not only weakens the capacity of some Muslim religious leaders to serve as advisors in sensitive matters, but it also compromises their effectiveness as partners in the struggle against extremism.”

New York City Muslims are afraid of growing beards, wearing traditional attire, participating in extracurricular activities, or talking to strangers.

The authors conclude the report with a plea to stop the pervasive program, claiming that the policing encourages deep-seated mistrust and distrust within the Muslim community.

“There’s a lot of collateral damage,” Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander told the Huffington Post.

The NYPD has so far spent more than $1 billion on the Intelligence Division, which conducts the surveillance program. But throughout six years of surveillance, the NYPD has never generated a lead, according to Assistant Chief Thomas Galati.

“I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” Galati said in a deposition last June. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival.”

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia | , , , , , , | Comments Off on New York Muslims protest police surveillance

7 Year-Old Boy Handcuffed for $5 ‘Robbery’

By Alison Silveira | ACLU | February 1, 2013

Five dollars is apparently all it takes to land a 7-year-old in handcuffs in a New York City public school these days.

Parents across New York City awoke Wednesday morning to the news that Bronx third-grader Wilson Reyes was pulled out of class, handcuffed and interrogated over the course of 10 hours at his elementary school, and later, at a local precinct. Reyes was charged with robbery after someone said he grabbed $5 that a classmate had dropped on the floor, causing a scuffle among several boys.

Playground disputes that once amounted to a trip to the principal’s office have long since come under police jurisdiction in New York City, where over 5,000 agents assigned to the School Safety Division roam public school campuses under the auspices of the NYPD.

When Reyes’ mom was finally allowed to see her son, the New York Post reports, she found him handcuffed to a wall at the NYPD’s 44th Precinct, where she says he’d been interrogated and verbally abused for six hours. The shocking photo she took of her son in cuffs made front-page news on Wednesday.

Another student eventually admitted to taking the money, but it was well after Reyes had spent 10 hours handcuffed, interrogated and humiliated by the police.  A police source told the NY Post that officers were responding to “a 9-1-1 call of a robbery and assault.”

Though shocking, Reyes’ story is far from unique. When police officers are involved in disciplining minors, a classroom disruption involving an “unruly” student can quickly escalate into a call for police back-up.

Nearly 900 arrests were made at New York City public schools during the 2011-2012 school year, and 90 percent involved black or Latino students, according to an analysis of NYPD data released last year. Another 1,666 summonses were issued for illegal conduct.

New York’s public school students are dragged out of classrooms and cafeterias by police officers for shouting in the hallways or scribbling on desks. Court summonses and assault charges are levied for playground fistfights, and students are carted from schools to precincts for the fear-inducing offense of carrying a cell phone on school grounds. In a number of cases, officers have also used excessive force to arrest children for violating school rules, at times leaving injuries requiring hospitalization.

That’s why the ACLU – along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, and law firm Dorsey & Whitney – is suing the City of New York on behalf of the city’s public middle and high school students, accusing the NYPD’s School Safety Division of violating students’ constitutional rights.

Yet the over-policing of our schools is not an issue unique to New York City.

The deployment of cops to public schools across the country epitomizes the national trend known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which children of color are funneled from our public school classrooms into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

There’s Kaleb Winston, the Salt Lake City 14-year-old who was interrogated by gang police at his school because of the design of his backpack and the sketches he made for art class. Or the Kansas sophomore whose arm was broken as a cop pulled a Taser gun to help arrest him for wearing saggy pants. One Wisconsin teen was arrested and fingerprinted for allegedly stealing a chicken nugget meal in the school cafeteria, while a Texas honor student was jailed for missing class. And then there’s the Georgia kindergartener who was handcuffed last year when she refused to calm down.

The stories are countless, and every one of them heartbreaking. In too many school districts across the country we are witnessing the increased criminalization of our youngest and most vulnerable students. Parents, teachers, principals, and mental health experts know children best. We should let them decide what’s best for their wellbeing. Putting cops in classrooms is not the answer to ensuring our children’s safety.

February 1, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 3 Comments

NY state senator poses with weapon on Syria border

A photo released on August 15, 2012 shows NY State Sen. David Storobin (L) and his chief of staff, Paul Gullo, (R) with Israeli Gen. Shmulik Olansky (C) on the Syrian border.
Photo released August 15, 2012 shows NY State Sen. David Storobin (L) and his chief of staff, Paul Gullo, (R) with Israeli Gen. Shmulik Olansky (C) on Syrian border
Press TV –  August 19, 2012

A New York state senator has taken up arms while posing for a picture in an Israeli army uniform on the Syrian border during an official trip to Israel.

A New York state senator has been photographed with a weapon in his hands and posing for a picture in an Israeli army uniform on the Syrian border during an official trip to Israel.

A photo posted online on August 15 showed State Sen. David Storobin in an Israeli army uniform and with a rifle in his hands side-by-side with Israeli officers.

Storobin, who is running for reelection as a Republican, is seen standing next to Gen. Shculik Olansky, who is in charge of Israel’s Golan Heights Armor Division.

Storobin’s chief of staff, Paul Gullo, also appears in the image released by Storobin’s campaign.

The provocative move is the latest show of US support for armed gangs attempting to topple the Syrian government.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Another Professor Fired for Views on Middle East

An Interview with Kristofer Petersen-Overton

By JOSHUA SPERBER | January 28, 2011

Brooklyn College fired PhD student Kristofer Petersen-Overton yesterday, one day after New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) sent a letter to BC president Karen Gould accusing Petersen-Overton of being an “overt supporter of terrorism.” Hikind has complained in interviews that Petersen-Overton’s academic work is anti-Israel, and that his attempt to “understand” suicide bombing is unfathomable. Petersen-Overton and I are colleagues at the CUNY Graduate Center.

JS: You were preparing to instruct a course on the Middle East and were fired. What happened?

KPO: I was hired by Mark Ungar at Brooklyn College’s political science department on the recommendation of Dov Waxman at the Graduate Center. I went in for an interview, and he was impressed with my credentials. I have an MA and I’ve published on the situation [in the Middle East], and he said “I would be honored to have you.” And this was for a grad level seminar, which is not lecture-based, meaning that our classes would be discussion-oriented and not some sort of alleged platform.

JS: What was the official explanation for your firing, and why doesn’t it make sense?

KPO: I have not once been contacted by the department itself, but I was told that the official reason I have been fired is that I don’t have a PhD, which is untrue, because no student teaching this course has a PhD, and there are of course many student teachers at BC who do not have their PhD’s. And I’ll point out that I am somewhat more qualified than many student teachers because I came into the program with a Master’s degree, which many students who are teaching for CUNY don’t have.

I was fired immediately after Dov Hikind contacted the school. He is an especially radical assemblyman who goes after people who he perceives as being anti-Israel. He’s actually made a career out of targeting people for alleged anti-Israel bias.

JS: And the charge of bias is doubly problematic. Because, one, it’s inaccurate. But, two, even if it were accurate, what does it imply?

KPO: We all come to the table with our personal political views; there’s not a single professor who doesn’t have their own views. So it all comes down to how one approaches those views, and I devoted an entire class in the syllabus to the subject of objectivity and humanism, meaning I wanted to put this issue of bias on the table to facilitate open and productive discussions.

JS: What does your firing suggest about contemporary politics and higher education?

KPO: They’ve targeted professors up for tenure for so long and have been relatively unsuccessful except for several cases, like with Norman Finkelstein (JS: and, among others, Nicholas De Genova and Thaddeus Russell, at Columbia University and Barnard College, respectively), now I think they’re going after graduate students before their careers even begin. One of the most direct implications of this which is deeply troubling is not the fact that people take issue with one particular class, which is inevitable, but the way in which the college administration caved so quickly – for it to occur within 24 hours is incredible to me, and the school never even consulted me. For this to be decided by a state official poking his nose in a college syllabus is Orwellian. I’ve received tremendous support, which I’m very grateful for. Norman Finkelstein wrote me, and after I contacted Neve Gordon he (Gordon) contacted BC’s provost, writing that he reviewed my syllabus and that it was excellent and reflected a number of different perspectives, noting that the textbook was mainstream and “emphasizes the Zionist narrative.” He also read a scholarly paper I had written, and wrote that he was “struck by (my) academic rigor.”

JS: What can people do to lend support?

I would be greatly appreciative if people can send an email to the provost, even better a letter, and tomorrow it would be great if people could call, and more importantly if people could disseminate this story. It’s especially disgusting that they would go after a grad student, because they have not only impacted my career but also my income and health insurance.

Office of the Provost (William A. Tramontano)
Brooklyn College
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11210
718.951.5000
tramontano@brooklyn.cuny.edu

Kristofer Petersen-Overton can be reached at kpetersen-overton@GC.CUNY.EDU. His website is http://www.petersen-overton.com/_/home.html

Joshua Sperber can be reached at jsperber4@yahoo.com

Source

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments