Monday, July 30, 2012

Bloomberg Supports Gun Supporters

Mayor Bloomberg has been supporting elected officials who support gun ownership, though Bloomberg claims to oppose the availability of guns in our communities.

Bloomberg Supports Guns Supporters

On August 15, Mayor Bloomberg will host a fundraiser for Republican US Senator Brown of Massachusetts. But, Senator Brown has opposed a ban on assault weapons (a ban that was in place in the US from 1994 to 2004), and Senator Brown earns very high ratings from the NRA, our country's loudest and strongest voice in favor of gun availability.

Here is New York State, Mayor Bloomberg has supported former Staten Island Republican Rep. Vito Fossella, one of the gun lobby's most loyal public officials. He is also the biggest donor to the Republicans in the New York State Senate, though those Republicans have successfully opposed Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to bring bullet microstamping to our state. We have supported the Mayor's microstamping push, but the Mayor is the largest donor to the group that is blocking the Mayor's efforts. He is truly his own worst enemy, and people in NYC are being killed because of the successful opposition to gun control by elected officials who remain in office because of the Mayor's financial support.

Bloomberg Right to Oppose Guns

Bloomberg seems virtually alone in calling for reduced availability of guns in our country. His rhetoric is correct. Let's hope he starts to put his money where his mouth is. Let's look at his recent statements criticizing Obama and Romney.
Less than a week after Aurora, the two candidates are back to politics as usual, attacking each other on gaffes and trivialities. If not now, when is the time for them to outline their solutions to gun violence?
After the massing shooting in Tucson last year, we heard: “Now is not the time.” We heard the same refrain after shooting sprees at Virginia Tech and Columbine. It’s as if as a country, we cannot mourn the dead and protect the living at the same time.
I refuse to accept that — and as a country, we have never accepted that when our safety has been at risk. When our country was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, we did not wait to respond. We took immediate steps to prevent another attack. Here in New York City, we gave our police officers the tools they need to do their jobs — and protect innocent lives.
But when 34 people are murdered with guns every day, Washington just looks the other way — even when massacres occur in a single place. It has been 18 months since the Tucson shooting, and still Washington has not taken the steps necessary to ensure that all people with mental health and drug histories, including the Tucson shooter, are precluded from buying guns.
The reason for the inaction is that — according to conventional wisdom — talking about gun regulations is unpopular with voters. But when you ask the American people — including gun owners — if they favor smarter, tougher measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, they overwhelmingly say they do.
If Bloomberg would back up these statements with a small portion of his billions of dollars of wealth, he might make a difference and save lives.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sylvia Woods Helped Define Upper Manhattan

Sylvia Woods, the founder of Sylvia's on Lenox Avenue in Harlem, passed away last week. She was the Queen of Soul Food and a iconic element of Upper Manhattan.

Remembering a Queen

Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty offered reflections that fit the reality of Sylvia Woods and her legacy.

Sylvia Woods was a graduate of the tobacco fields and truck patches of Hemingway, South Carolina. Much like family and many others, she and her husband joined the wave North in search of a better life, while maintaining strong links to the family “home place.” Sylvia’s, now an institution of 50 years in the New York scene, made way for a whole host of fabulous soul food restaurants, each giving a taste of home to migrants and their descendants but to tourists from around the world as well.

Sylvia’s institution has known its politicians, civil rights activists, artists and entertainers - it was the place Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton could break bread in peace, and the place where hip hop deals and careers were born. Like “the South’s Julia Child,” Edna Lewis, North Carolina’s Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, and Chef Leah Chase and Mrs. Willie Mae Seaton of New Orleans, Ms. Sylvia is part of a pantheon of black women nourished by drive and quiet dignity, but to us she’s more than her history or any of its hype.

Sylvia Woods represented the survival of something more than just “soul food,” she was an Old World craftswoman; essentially an immigrant bringing her cuisine to a new land. This woman was our mother, our grandmother - to the world. She helped make it possible for culinary historians and food writers like myself to claim and love our food and embrace it as our inheritance. She inspired others to pursue their dreams and represent their Southern regional flavors.

Ms. Sylvia was proof of the resilience of the Great Migration experience, and proof that we had done more than just move North or escape the South; we brought the best of who we were and we enriched the planet through the nourishment that gave strength to our ancestors. Sylvia was one of many heritage bearers, carrying flavors passed from Africa to slave ships to plantations to sharecroppers to freedom seekers, business people, chefs, migrants, and now her great-great grandchildren and beyond. The Woods’ legacy was giving African America back a word that is often reserved for other Americans with far off lands: tradition

To be sure, this is not the death of Sylvia’s as an institution. The restaurant will continue to thrive and the family will carry on Sylvia’s legacy and high standards of hospitality and flavor. And yet, today America is missing one of its cultural and culinary icons; someone whose love for her kin, country and country roots will continue to inspire us all to cook with bigger hearts and plenty of soul.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bloomberg and Kelly Have Blood on Their Hands

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have blood on their hands. The skyrocketing shootings in our city are resulting from their adherence to racism and their rejection of common sense.

Stop and Frisk Costs Lives

As we have discussed many times, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have been harassing and humiliating innocent people of color throughout our city (in high crime areas and low crime areas in communities of color and in white communities) in record numbers every year since they rose to power, and they have been allowing criminals to thrive

As Judge Scheindlin notes in her opinion, a report by the legal scholar Jeffrey Fagan found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be stopped at police discretion, not just in high-crime, high-minority areas, but in districts where crime is minimal and populations are mixed.
Police officials say that officers stop people when they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. An analysis last year by The Times of street stops in one mainly black Brooklyn neighborhood found that officers listed vague reasons in half the stops, including “furtive movement,” a category that can be used to mask harassment.
The Fagan report found that arrests are made in less than 6 percent of all street stops — a lower rate than if the police simply set up random checkpoints. Less than 1 percent of stops turned up weapons. This suggests that hundreds of thousands of people, mostly minorities, have been stopped for no legitimate reason — or worse, because of the color of their skin.
The Police Department says it has a training program that explains proper arrest procedure and warns officers against racial profiling. But Judge Scheindlin was sharply critical of those efforts, noting that numerous officers did not recall ever receiving such training.
The NYPD has been using skin color to stop innocent people while letting real criminals go free. The Village Voice recently highlighted the NYPD's lack of willingness to address criminal activities.
Investigators went beyond [the whistle blower's] specific claims and found many other instances in the 81st Precinct where crime reports were missing, had been misclassified, altered, rejected, or not even entered into the computer system that tracks crime reports.

These weren't minor incidents. The victims included a Chinese-food delivery man robbed and beaten bloody, a man robbed at gunpoint, a cab driver robbed at gunpoint, a woman assaulted and beaten black and blue, a woman beaten by her spouse, and a woman burgled by men who forced their way into her apartment.

"When viewed in their totality, a disturbing pattern is prevalent and gives credence to the allegation that crimes are being improperly reported in order to avoid index-crime classifications," investigators concluded. "This trend is indicative of a concerted effort to deliberately underreport crime in the 81st Precinct."
Stop and Frisk Does Not Reduce Crime

We have previously focused on the fact that stop and frisk does not reduce crime.

[A]lthough the stop-and-frisk rate increased six fold, the murder rate continued the same slight rate of decline during the last decade as it has since 1997. See the graph above. In fact, crime was reduce sharply in the early 1990's because of a massive increase in police officers and a Dinkins-led tactic called "community policing".

In 2002, Ray Kelly criticized stop and frisk.

“A large reservoir of good will was under construction” before Mr. Giuliani, he told the City Bar Association. “It was called community policing. But it was quickly abandoned for tough-sounding rhetoric and dubious stop-and-frisk tactics that sowed new seeds of community mistrust.”

He has changed his mind.

Mayor Bloomberg and his police chief Ray Kelly defend stop and frisk tactics by using the "big lie" that stop and frisk reduces crime. They know it does not reduce crime, yet they increase the number of young men of color who are stopped each year. They vocally and forcefully defend the practice as if their minds have been replaced by the mind of Bull Connor.

Time for Bloomberg and Kelly to Leave Office

We have experienced a recent dramatic rise in shootings. Bloomberg and Kelly have been obsessed with the racist stop and frisk approach, and that obsession is now costing lives in large numbers. This trend cannot be tolerated. If Bloomberg were one-tenth as focused on reducing crime as he has been on defending his racist law enforcement approach, preventing people of color from joining the Fire Department, maintaining the whitest administration in generations, and preventing children of color from entering gifted and talented programs, crime would be dropping rather than skyrocketing.

Now, after 11 years of the Mayor's refusal to follow common sense and after 11 years of the Mayor's unapologetic adherence to an Apartheid system, we need a new direction; we can ill afford to wait for the Mayor's current term to end. He must leave now.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Knicks and Nets Head to the Olympics

With the Olympics around the corner and the US men's basketball team now selected, New York City basketball fans can rejoice is seeing their local superstars on the US Olympic basketball team for 2012.

Carmelo Anthony

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony was selected for the US Team. As part of making the trip to London, Carmelo will be united with his former coach, Mike D'Antoni, with whom he is rumored to have had a falling out. Anthony claims that he was not the reason D'Antoni quit as Knicks head coach and that he and D'Antoni are friends.

But there is some irony in that after everything that happened with the Knicks, with Anthony receiving most of the blame for D'Antoni's departure in March, that the two will be together every day here, in Washington, in Manchester, England, in Barcelona, and finally in London with the Olympic team.

Both sides can laugh now, and apparently they did when they met at the team dinner Thursday night. It was the first time Anthony and D'Antoni, an Olympic team assistant coach, spoke since the two parted ways after the morning shootaround March 14.

"We talked, we laughed and joked," Anthony said. "I told you all back then I never had any bad blood with coach Mike. We've always been on the same page. It's good to see him." Anthony can shed defenders much easier than the perception that he was responsible for D'Antoni's decision to step down.

The two had philosophical differences. D'Antoni runs an offense predicated on pick-and-rolls and ball and player movement. Anthony is more of a post-up, isolation player.
Anthony has played in the Olympics twice, winning a bronze in 2004 and a gold in 2008.

Tyson Chandler

The only true center on the US team will be Tyson Chandler of the Knicks. No other big men are part of the team. Therefore, Chandler will play a huge role on the team, and is likely to receive enormous playing time. Chandler has had international experience, but he has never played in the Olympics before.

Deron Williams

The Brooklyn Nets have not played their first game yet as a team from Brooklyn, but they have a representative on the US Olympic team that will begin Olympic action on July 27. Guard Deron Williams will be participating in his second Olympic games after winning a gold medal in 2008.


With these three New York City stars representing the US in London later this month, the US men's basketball team begins its preparation. Exhibition games against the Dominican Republic, Spain, Argentina, and Great Britain are scheduled for this month, beginning with the Dominican Republic game this week in Las Vegas. The first Olympic game of 2012 will be against France on July 29.

Any result other than a gold medal will be a huge disappointment.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rangel Victory in Doubt

Congressman Rangel's apparent re-election last week is now in doubt.

Missing Votes

Rangel, who has been an impressive and productive member of the United States House of Representatives for 40 years, was declared the winner of the Democratic Primary last week by many news organizations, and he has a lead in the unofficial vote count. But, Rangel, who is also the Dean of the New York State Congressional delegation, has a very small lead.

As of Friday, six percent of the vote, represented by 32 precincts, had yet to be counted. Another 2,447 affidavit ballots and 667 absentee votes had also not yet been counted. Rangel's lead was  1,032 votes, according to the Board of Elections.

On Saturday night, the Board of Elections announced updated unofficial results that include all of the precincts but none of the absentee ballots or affidavit ballots. The updated Rangel lead was just 802 votes with 3,000 potential votes uncounted.

What Went Wrong?

According to Politico, the reason that six percent of votes have not yet been tabulated is that the police officers tasked with providing an unofficial record of the data from those precincts after securing voting boxes on election night had not done so. On Friday of last week, elections officials said a final tally would arrive by 2 p.m. that day. The final tally was not communicated until Saturday.

What Next?

The person whom Charlie Rangel apparently defeated last week, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, has filed suit in an effort to get access to the vote counting process.

State Senator Espaillat issued a statement:
“Our campaign has not been allowed to adequately monitor the Board of Elections’ proceedings, as required by law. The BOE continues to stonewall not only our campaign but also the news media, which is particularly disturbing given that it blocks the free flow of information and transparency — the bedrock of our democratic system.”

Now, the courts will decide how much access the campaigns are given. The Board of Elections will, hopefully, count all of the legitimate votes and announce an official winner this week.