Why Haiti Means More in Brooklyn Than Anywhere Else!

Rep. Yvette Clarke. Photograph by David Montalvo

It was 4:53 p.m. in New York when a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti – and rattled a Haitian-American neighborhood 1,500 miles away in Brooklyn. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke immediately released a statement called, well, “Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke Releases Statement on 7.0 Earthquake Hitting Haiti.”

Though the title lacked originality, the statement represents, in many ways, the moment that Clarke, a fledgling congresswoman, began to define her political identity.

“Indeed, she is to be commended for her tireless efforts and commitment,” said Marc Prou, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a member of the Haitian Studies Association. “Congresswoman Yvette Clarke’s leadership work,” he said, makes her “a champion of the Haiti relief/rebuild effort.”

Congress had only been in session a few days before Haiti’s earthquake. There was little activity on the House floor. And Clarke’s office had only peddled three press releases, none of which had anything to do with lawmaking.

This is not to suggest that the fashionable congresswoman – who recently donned a leopard-print trench coat to chase after census-gazelles, slow on filling out their forms – is just sitting pretty on her committees or in her district.

This year, the two-term congresswoman had already introduced four bills between January and April, half of them about Haiti. This boosts Clarke’s annualized bill introductions to 16, up from 10 last year.

Though the number doesn’t come close to that of veteran New York City delegate, Rep. Charles Rangel – he introduced 40 bills last year and has served almost four decades in Congress – it does suggest that Clarke is gaining political confidence. GovTrack, a website that tracks Congressional activities, considers Clarke a “follower” – that is, she tends to cosponsor bills of other members of Congress who do not cosponsor her own bills – though it has sharply increased her leadership score to 70 out of 100, up from 30 last year and 10 from the year before.

True, she wasn’t the first lawmaker to introduce a bill relating to Haiti’s earthquake. But upon closer inspection of those first bills, many of them did more to protect Americans than to help Haitians.

One bill, for example, wants to reimburs states that provided treatment to illnesses resulting “directly or indirectly” from the earthquake. Another bill would honor American military service members in Haiti. Yet another sought for speedier income tax benefits in the hopes that those dollars are donated to Haiti relief organizations.

But for Clarke, a Caribbean-American and Brooklyn-native with one of the largest Haitian constituencies, helping Haiti is “a family affair” – words that seem to reflect just how deep in her nervous system this cause is to her: like global warming for Al Gore; like health care for Hillary Clinton.

“I have a real bias,” Clark said, adding a little hip action and humor to her speech one recent Saturday morning in Brooklyn. “I can’t help it. It’s in my blood.”

So in February, Clarke worked on legislation that would allow some 55,000 Haitians who already have approved immigration petitions to join their relatives in the United States. And the following month, she introduced legislation to encourage investment in small businesses owned by Haitian citizens.

She “has definitely been on target from the beginning,” said Yolette Williams, president of the Haitian American Alliance of New York, a volunteer organization, “and has demonstrated great leadership during this terrible time for Haiti.”

Williams said that Clarke not only “introduced bills in Congress to help with the reconstruction efforts of Haiti,” but she was also “instrumental in the rapid response by the US Army and worked closely with the White House to monitor the rescue efforts.”

But Clarke hasn’t just taken the needs of her Haitian constituency to Washington. She has also brought the federal government to her district’s doorstep.

In late April, the Haitian government asked for relief efforts to stop and for economic rebuild to begin. Clarke then sprung into action and called on the United States Agency for International Development to meet with businesses in her district that could help in this next phase.

Though the meeting began a half-hour late, Clarke hosted a get-together between USAID and about 70 businessmen and women in a Brooklyn church to discover contractual opportunities in Haiti.

“We rarely get to work with the members of Congress,” said Phil Gary, USAID’s chief of staff of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

He then thanked Clarke, who stood by in a soft white pantsuit with a light-blue tweed coat, smiling.

As a result of this meeting, said Dr. Roy Hastick, president of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, “a more formal structure is in place” to make it easier for small businesses to export their services to Haiti.

He said commerce organizations like his have to work with the US Department of Commerce and other federal agencies. And that’s not always an easy job when it comes to helping entrepreneurs export their businesses, he said.

But now, Hastick said, “I see some positive signs have started.”

Indeed, at the meeting, her successor in city council, Mathieu Eugene, who is the first Haitian-born official elected to New York City Council, turned to Clarke and said: “We in the Haitian community are lucky to have you.”

David Montalvo is a graduate journalism student in business and economics at the City University of New York, publishing stories in The New York Times – The Local, The Daily Green, am New York, Queens Courier, NYCity News Service and CUNY-TV. He will begin an internship at Crain’s New York Business in June.

The Calm before the Storm

You can almost see the tumbleweeds tripping across the set and hear the silence interrupted only by the lonesome wail of a parched desert wind as saloon doors swing listlessly. Soon the jingle of spurs will herald the gathering of political desperadoes, lawmen and cowboys come to settle the question of who runs Washington: the rebels or the establishment…

In a back room at the saloon, Karl Rove plays with his chips, tries to sneak a peek at his opponents cards and fingers the ace he has hidden up his sleeve, a new, Supreme Court-sanctioned, unaccountable, moneyed interest political vehicle: “American Crossroads.”

While frightened townsfolk hurry their children away from the center of town and the crossfire and stray bullets of the midterm primaries, Carl rove is focused on his poker game. He knows that real battle is happening away from the dusty main street where political careers are gunned down in broad daylight, it is right there at the gaming table where the money is won or lost. The money to pay the hired guns and then buy them a round of whiskey’s to salute the fallen. Michael Steele, good riddance, he will say to himself.

In a room upstairs Anthony Weiner, cocky, battle-tested gunslinger, leans back in his bed, and admires the beauty of his favorite saloon gal, Huma Abedin. Dang it! He’s gonna make an honest woman out of that gal this summer, he just can’t say when.

He looks at his six guns sitting on the bedside table and considers going down to the street to shoot ‘em up some, but thinks better of it, he’ll take a few pot shots from his room’s window, defending the supreme court nominee in a desultory fashion on the Don Imus show, no real fire works. What happens in this town doesn’t matter that much any more, he’s already made his decision to take his famous fast draw and sharp aim to another lawless town: New York City, where a man like him can rise to top of the heap.

Meanwhile down stairs Carl Rove raises his whisky (actually iced tea in a whiskey glass) to his fellow players and then orders another round for the table. The game is going well and he’ll have plenty o’ money for the sharp shooters he has placed on rooftops and inside garbage cans with a strategic view of the street. When they collect their pay, for sniper work against the tea party rebels who have been hassling his establishment friends, they’ll know which side their bread is buttered on. And they’ll remember that when the big battle shapes up in the general election.

From his window above the saloon Anthony Weiner, can see a sharp shooter on the roof across the way getting ready to pick off targets in the street below.  He looks at his woman and sighs… he’s gonna miss this town.

Jerrold Nadler, co-creator of the Permanent Campaign?

OK, so the short answer is, “no.” And the longer answer is, actually, a young Nadler found himself repulsed by the concept, but might have been present, as he tells it, at the first articulation of the idea during those early, vicious political days in high school government.

And the long answer goes like this:

The idea of the permanent campaign is attributed to Sidney Blumenthal, a journalist and, later, aide to President Clinton, who literally wrote the book on the subject. Or, depending on what you read, pollster phenom Patrick Caddell, who, writing to then-President Jimmy Carter, said “it is my thesis governing with public approval requires a continuing political campaign.”

Basically, the idea is that, in modern politics–especially at the presidential level, but increasingly more common down the political food chain–elected officials never stop campaigning. All governing decisions are seen through the lens of the next election cycle, calculated for maximum affect, regardless of whether the policy is ultimately good for the country (or district, county, township, local pet population, etc.)

In this way, an issue–say, health care reform–is worth pursuing if it will help the side supporting it get re-elected (potential contradiction intended). The same would go for the side opposing it (eh, not so much). What we have, say critics, is basically a whole little governing going on, and a whole lot of posturing and pandering to interests for the sake of future political victory. Both the Clinton and Bush White Houses have been criticized for having permanent campaign agendas, which led to bad policy and ineffective governing.

OK, back to Nadler. The congressman’s political career began in high school, as did the political consulting career of a fellow Stuyvesant High School student, Dick Morris. Morris would go on to become an aide to President Clinton, the architect of political triangulation and, eventually, a Fox News political consultant. But it all began at Stuy High in the mid-1960s, helping Nadler and fellow future politicians, including current New York State Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, create a teenage political machine.

Here I’ll let the congressman tell the story in his own words:

I had a tremendous fight with Morris. This was very telling. The school wide offices were elected in June and January for six-month terms. The class offices were elected in September for a year. The class officers, plus the school officers, were the executive council, which made the decisions and were the legislative body.

In June of my sophomore year, Simon Barsky was elected vice-president and I was elected secretary. Morris ran the campaign and we made certain promises, we were going to do various things. We came back to school in September and obviously we can’t do that [fulfill the campaign promises] until we make sure we have a majority in the executive council, you know, so we can carry our program through. We had to make sure the right people got elected to various class offices, which we did.

Now we have that arranged and it’s the middle of October, now we can get down to doing things. Morris comes up to me and says, “We have to start planning.”

I say, “Planning for what?”

He said, “For the next election. Simon will run for president, you’ll run for vice-president.”

I looked at him and I said, “Dick, we just finished with the election last week. Now we have to govern, now we have to do what we said we would do in January. We’ll worry about it in December for the January election. We’ll run on our record, what we’ve accomplished, etc.”

He looks at me and he says, “No, no, no. You don’t understand. Every decision you make now must be an eye towards the next election. You just can go and do…”

I was scandalized by that. I looked at him and said, “That’s terrible, that’s horrible, no, we have to do things on their merits.”

So there you have it: Dick Morris, as a senior in high school in the mid-1960s–beating Caddell by a decade–developed the idea of the permanent campaign in American politics. Nadler says the incident damaged their relationship, at least until the next election cycle. Obviously things didn’t turn out too bad for either man, though the consequences for the country might not be as positive.

Nadler described Morris as “brilliant — nuts, but brilliant.” It’s obvious we’ve been focusing on the wrong elections. The hot races in 2010 aren’t in congress; they’re in local high schools across America. Welcome to the brave new world of political journalism.

Going Green Might Not Go Far Enough

Congressman Jose E. Serrano is keeping his green streak alive.

Via Verde - from Jonathan Rose Companies
Via Verde - from Jonathan Rose Companies

Last week, Serrano spoke at the groundbreaking for a new  “green building” that is coming to the South Bronx.  Dubbed Via Verde, the 222-unit apartment complex will rise in a 1.5-acre vacant lot in Melrose.  Solar panels, green roofs and rainwater retention systems in this LEED-certified building will work around a sprawling garden for residents.  Best of all, according to the website of architects, Jonathon Rose Companies, 151 of the rental units will be reserved for low-income families.

“This is truly a turning point in how we will build affordable housing in our neighborhoods,” said Serrano at the groundbreaking.

Sounds like the kind of project that residents of such an economically and environmentally spurned part of the city would be doing backflips over.

But the news reminded me of a scene I witnessed in Serrano’s district in November.

I was pressed in the back of an unusually crowded Housing and Land Use Committee meeting for Bronx Community Board 2, in their Hunts Point office.  The room was packed, because residents of a notoriously neglected building were coming together to speak out about their deplorable conditions and have their say about the selection of a new landlord.  But, that’s another story, (feel free to read my version of it here).  Before the board got to the issue of slumlords, there was a presentation for a new development in the neighborhood.  A coalition of architects and a local non-profit presented plans for a new construction on the corner of Westchester and Intervale Avenues, using recycled materials, a green roof and bamboo floors.  And again, best of all, 110 units of affordable housing would be in this proposed LEED-certified construction.

The architects and advocates sought a letter of approval from the community board for their idea.  I thought to myself; “This is exactly what the neighborhood needs.  Green and affordable?  The board will love it.”

I thought wrong.  The board declined to offer a letter of support for the plan.

“We understand what the city considers ‘affordable,’” said one committee member, putting air quotes around the word. “That’s not what this community considers affordable.”

At issue was how “affordable” is defined.  Developers are rewarded for affordable offerings via tax abatements and subsidies from the city.  To qualify, developers use the city’s metrics for affordability – offer a unit to someone making a certain percentage under Area Median Income and you get a corresponding subsidy.

But Area Median Income is calculated using citywide data.  The Upper East Side and The South Bronx are counted together for income, and are given the same standard for affordability.  The current median income at a citywide level, according to the New York Department of Housing and Urban Development, is almost $70,000 for a family of three (the average family size in the South Bronx is 3.11 people per household).  Based on the 2000 census, the median income for Bronx Community Board 2 was $15,000 a year – almost a third of the citywide number.

In a development like the Banana Kelly project in Hunts Point, which opened more than a year ago, affordable units are reserved for people making no more than 60 percent of New York City median income. That means an individual could make no more than $29,760 a year to get into the building.  Not a hard feat, considering that most people in the neighborhood make half that.

The fears expressed at the crowded community board meeting, were that nice new green and shiny buildings like this – while noble in intent – would be more likely to fill up with middle income people from other neighborhoods, further squeezing out people from a neighborhood where the word “gentrification” is uttered with looks over the shoulder for the boogeyman.

The developers of Via Verde do not have the income band breakdowns for affordable units listed on their webpage yet.   They should.  These kinds of developments could be a watershed for turning life around for the community, or one that rolls right over residents.  Affordable housing measures were introduced by the city and are used by developers with noble intent.  But good intentions aren’t good enough.  Via Verde may well fill up with people who have spent their whole lives in the area and could really use a hand, but it may not.  Congressman Serrano lent the new development his endorsement last week, now it is his responsibility to make sure this building does what it is intended to do.  Green roofs are fine and dandy, but it is who gets to live under them that matters.

A Tale Of Two Facebooks

There’s no denying the power of Facebook, the social networking site started by a geeky Harvard kid looking to meet chicks and has since turned into one of the most popular sites on the internet.  Anyone looking for proof of it’s influence over mainstream media need only to refer to this past weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Betty White, which was the result of a Facebook plea.


Congressman Gregory Meeks posing by the desk where the Health Care Reform ask was signed.

Lately, politicians have been using Facebook as a way to directly connect with their constituents.   I friended Congressman Greg Meeks a month or two ago, breaking my strict rule that Facebook should be for personal frienemy stalking and Farmville (I’m friends with Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz, but only because he helps with my farm).  It’s easy to mix business with pleasure on the site, and it’s also an easy way for politicians, who can easily be seen as out of touch, to pretend to be connected to the people who elected them.

At press time, Meeks boasts 3,064 friends on the site–a large number, until compared with neighboring Congressman (and Bill Maher darling) Anthony Weiner, who has 4,725.  Weiner, who Mike Drury described so perfectly in this week’s post, may have exactly what Meeks’ wants–not just a lot of Facebook friends, but a recognizable name and face outside of New York.


Weiner’s pictures, although significantly fewer than Meeks’, show a well-edited reflection of his place in the public eye.  His photo with President Obama is a candid shot of the two of them speaking.  Meeks has multiple photos with Obama, seeming not so much more in-the-know but more desperate to seem important.

9621_1209959459929_1557025818_30546137_2110241_n please love me

Whether or not these photos represent the true situation down in DC is a moot point–people’s lives on the internet can sometimes overwrite reality.  And when all the people in your district have is a page on a social networking site, they’ll believe what they see.

The Coming Battle

Anthony Weiner is not quite movie star handsome, but he’s close… and his chiseled jaw line and sharp tongue have become familiar to politically oriented TV viewers across the nation.

The focus of his ambition seems, however, to remain local (if New York City can really be thought of as a ”locality”). He’s hinted he wants to Mayor and the pundits and reporters who cover him believe him.

He also has a certain amount of momentum. He gained name recognition during the 2009 campaign season in part because he seemed to be the only guy the Bloomberg machine really feared. (A Bloomberg operative told me that the campaign actually altered the timing of the Brooklyn canvassing schedule to saturate the neighborhood where Weiner’s mother lives to send a message to Weiner early in the spring).

Because of the anomaly of Bloomberg’s term-limits fake out, the election authorities allowed Weiner to keep the five million he raised for that 2009 race, which is the maximum; so now Anthony, or Tony Hot Dog-as a certain former staffer likes to call him-can sit back and weigh his options.

But, the fact remains you don’t become the top guy in New York City without a fight, and 2013 is setting up to be a no-holds-barred scrum. Three years out and likely contenders Christine Quinn, Bill DeBlasio, and Scott Stringer are already mixing it up, in a kerfuffle about the mysterious finances of the City Council.

It’s early days yet, but a Marist poll taken on April 13th shows that no one is really ahead of the pack, although Weiner enjoys a very slight lead in the Democratic primary against others known to be considering a run.

Here’s the current break down of registered Democrats:

Congressman Anthony Weiner -18%

Former Comptroller/losing candidate Bill Thompson-15%

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -12%

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio -10%

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. -10%

Comptroller John Liu-9%

And there are others who may be biding their time until the actual campaign season begins. Former Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrión has just been tapped by Obama to lead the New York and New Jersey Office of Housing and Urban Development and he apparently has a war chest of $3 million and is said to be considering a bid for either Comptroller or Mayor.

Also there is the formidable presence of Mayor Bloomberg. He trashed term limits to try to solidify his legacy as Mayor and will be sure to want to influence the outcome of the next election, especially to preserve the changes he has made to the school system. He may try to put forward one of his friends in the business community to carry on with the Mayor’s program.

He’s said to be thinking of Dick Parsons former head of Time Warner, who is currently trying to rescue Citi Group from the repercussions of it’s recent excesses with collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.  He is probably the most powerful African-American Business leader in the country.

Harold Ford, who seems to be interested in setting up shop in New York any-way-he-can might, despite his recent embarrassing performance, try for a big apple play.

So when Anthony Weiner does what everyone expects him to do and follows his dream of becoming Mayor, he will be jumping from a relatively comfortable seat into a mosh-pit full of sharp elbows.

Harlem: The New Class

Ah, the new class. Harlem this summer is sort of like the movie Dazed and Confused. The seniors are on their way out, and it’s time for the juniors who sat quietly to make their presence known. Instead of beating up freshmen or throwing parties at the water tower, however, they are announcing their candidacy against more well-known incumbents.

And so things continue on in Harlem, and it looks like we’re going to have another interesting throwdown in the area that comprises the 15th. One of the main criticism of Charlie Rangel and his cohorts have been that they haven’t  spent much time prepping a new class. Professor Barbara Fife, who formerly served high up under David Dinkins, echoed this sentiment, and it’s been a common theme in newspaper articles about the end of the Gang of Four. Basil Smikle, 38, has been mentioned as one of those younger Harlem generation types who typically would have run for office.

Geraldine Baum wrote less than two months ago, in article that focused heavily on Smilke:

The collapse of this dynasty has pained Harlem, and there are no rising stars to carry on. The new political elite is less interested in getting elected than in having influence in a broader sphere of the community. With their Ivy League educations, button-down shirts, blazers and jeans, the next generation represents a victory of sorts for the previous one, because the younger men occupy a place in society that the old guard could not have imagined.

They’re busy as consultants to black and white politicians and as lobbyists. They teach at majority-white universities and are regulars on political talk shows. They’re connected to an array of ministers, educational reformers, community leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs across the city, not just to a handful of men from central Harlem.

Basil even said, referring to a meeting to decide what to do about Governor Paterson that place among black leaders at Sylvia’s Restaurant,

“It’s so old-school and somewhat insulting,” Smikle said, “to have a ‘summit’ like that when much of the electorate does not live in a world where they blindly abide by decisions made in smoke-filled backrooms by a few people.”

It seems, however, that Basil might have been sitting in some of those smoke-filled backrooms himself. When State Senator Bill Perkins, who wears a fedora even better than Charlie Rangel wears a bow-tie, made his power play against Rangel and Governor Paterson around the timing of that meeting, criticizing them for their transgressions, there was insider talk of Harlem and black democrats trying to find a suitable candidate to take out Perkins. It seems that everyone decided on Smilke, who himself acknowledged that he had a long meeting with including Deputy Parks Department Commissioner Larry Scott Blackmon and political consultant Rodney Capel and they both decided that he was gong to be the guy to go after Perkins.

Even before Perkins took a shot at Rangel and Paterson, he was considered a bit of a rebel for siding with Obama against Hilary, while most Harlem leaders actually supported Hilary. A key issue in the race is going to be charter schools. Smikle supports them, and Perkins is very outspoken about his opposition. While Rangel hasn’t publicly gone after Perkins, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles this situation. No more than a few weeks ago there some people assuming Perkins might make a run at Rangel’s congressional seats.

All I know, it sounds like there’s going to be a lot of heavy conversations in smoke-filled backrooms this summer, and I want in.

Bill and Barack

Paging Congresswoman Velazquez

Two things happened this week. They weren’t really aware of each other’s existence, but they had a mutual impact.  Something like spring and allergies.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus under Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez announced its priorities for the Health and Environment Task Force in the 111th Congress.

And a mildly ill – non-Hispanic resident of the 12th District, paid a visit to the Williamsburg Health Center in Brooklyn.

Being sick sucks. No matter what your ethnicity is.

On a warm spring Tuesday, she schlepped her sweatpants-influenza-ish- self all the way to the closest clinic. “It’s better to be on the safe side,” her mother always said. Even if that side is on the South Side of the neighborhood, 16 blocks away.

The CHC’s announcement came just in time, the recent visit to the doctor shows.

In the heart of the Hassidic neighborhood, signs in both Yiddish and Spanish advise on hygiene and health rules.  The Orthodox woman at the reception desk, tried to be efficient and sympathetic. It wasn’t easy as she was alternating signing in patients and answering a constant stream of phone calls.

The waiting area that only minutes earlier was filled with nothing but Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s voice, talking about beets and cholesterol on the health channel, soon became crowded with real people and coughs.

One floor higher and 40 minutes later it was already a zoo.

A nurse – THE nurse – was hidden under a pile of files, medical records, manually filling out the paper work.
When the door opened the nurse mumbled, “They’re trying to make us quit our job,” an answer to one’s question – why are you here by yourself?

Then, she put an ad-hock sign on the door: Please knock once and take a sit.

There were no sits available.

About a dozen chairs were occupied (plus few kids running around). Young parents, babies, an elderly women – all Spanish speaking. Hispanics were on the other side as well, along with Afro-American, Asian, Jewish, and Indian doctors and nurses. A real hospital melting bed pan.

By the end of your visit you wished you had gone to work.

The lack of IT or manpower at health facilities is what the CHC Task Force will try to cure this year.
Here are selected examples of what The Health and the Environment Task Force priorities include:

  • Community Health Centers: Latinos comprise 34.8% of health center users. We support the development and expansion of community and migrant health centers and increasing funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • Health IT.  We support access to appropriate incentives to enable health care providers in low-income and medically underserved communities to move forward in adopting HIT.
  • Expansion of the Primary Health Care Workforce.  We support short term programs and policies to address immediate primary care and nursing workforce needs.

Congresswoman Velazquez should care. Not only as the chair of the CHC but also because the health industry is keeping her in good shape.

“Health Professionals” is the leading industry in donating to her 2010 campaign with $33,500, according to Opensecrets.com (Dentists $7,5000, Orthodontist with $5,000 and optometrists $5,000).

Although a very energetic supporter of Health Care, Nydia Velazquez’s legislative charts show that health issues were ill treated in the last decade.

With no major legislation record, some efforts can be traced, but not many. A million dollar program here, $500,000 health initiative there, Velazquez targeted AIDS, asthma and Obesity in Brooklyn’s Hispanic community. But no significant breakthrough on file.

Velazquez should follow the wise maternal advice and not neglect her health initiatives – because even just a minor inconvenience can lead to a more serious ailment – if not treated with care.

The (not so) many flavors of Terrorism

After the failed car bombing in Time Square last weekend, Congressman Nadler went on the Fox business channel to discuss the incident. Time Square, as well as the World Trade Center site, fall within the congressman’s district.

While talking about the need for New York to receive more funding to combat terrorism, he was asked if he had heard who might have been behind the attempt. At that point, the connection between Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of the failed attack, and Pakistani militants had yet to be established.

“Whether the guy who did this–or the people who did this–where with some Islamic terrorist group, or they were some right-wing nut group, or whether they were by themselves, in one sense it doesn’t matter because they’re all dangerous,” Nadler responded.

Yes, it could have seemingly been any of the above. The debate over terrorism in American seems too often to begin and end with selective memory. While the attacks on the World Trade centers were done by people that today are Terrorists when we talk about Terrorism, the idea that a Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, or a Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris Columbine-style plot–both of which are acts of terrorism–could be as likely as a Muslim committed to jihad doesn’t square with some people.

“As politicians like these fantasize about nonexistent Terrorist Tea Parties, the real thing slips through, blends in and plots mass murder,” wrote the Investor’s Business Daily editorial board, referring specifically to Nadler. While the threat of Islamic Terrorism is undoubtedly real–and no one, certainly not Nadler, is saying it isn’t–so, too, as the above examples directly show, is a form of domestic terrorism that appears to be conveniently forgotten.

Were it not the case, would former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, among others, be advocating stripping people of their rights and citizenship for being Terrorists?

“I would not have given him Miranda warnings after a couple of hours of questioning,” Giuliani told Jake Tapper on ABC’s “This Week” today, speaking about Shahzad. “I would have declared him an enemy combatant. I would have asked the president to declare him an enemy combatant.” This, it seems, is what you do to Terrorists At War With America. They are enemy combatants; they are certainly not to be treated as criminals.

Which is to say, they must be Islamic radicals bent on killing Americans. This is what Terrorism is. Imagine Giuliani’s suggestion applied to a McVeigh model: a United States military veteran, white, conservative, disaffected and dissatisfied with government and willing to do something about it. No Miranda rights for people like this? Declaring American citizens “enemy combatants”? Who among the Tea Party movement would Giuliani target first?

Maybe if, like Faisal Shahzad, you have the name and the face and the background to be a Terrorist. But if you’re a McVeigh or a disturbed adolescent like Klebold or Harris, the idea of extrajudicial imprisonment and the stripping of rights isn’t part of the conversation, even as we see a rise in right-wing militancy and Columbine-style plots are thwarted.

The idea that we should be putting strong security systems in place, treating terrorism as a crime, using the judicial and law enforcement systems to deal with these threats–all things Nadler has advocated for–should be a non-partisan issue. Yet this is what counts as substantive debate about how to protect Americans against terrorism. And Nadler gets called out of touch.

Engel's Tea Party Challenger is a Better Filmmaker than Michael Bay

If the Tea Party has its way, it will represent the North Bronx in Congress come 2011.

Hey! Stop laughing. That’s rude. And anyway, you never know…when I was in high school, a guy ran for and won a seat on my town’s council under the Bull-Moose Party flag. So even though the Tea Party and Southern New York seem as unlikely of a match as a Red Sox fan and proper diction (dude, zing), it’s important to take this guy seriously.

His name is Anthony Melé. He was in the army. He mentions that a lot. He’s patriotic. He mentions that a lot, too. He’s actually from the South Bronx. He doesn’t mention that a lot. He lives in Rockland County, where he lost a 2007 election for Ramapo Town Supervisor — by a lot.

The header for his website (www.meleforcongress.com), lists the three most important things you should know about him.

  • U.S. Army Veteran
  • Patriot
  • Constitutionalist

Yup, he’s a “Constitutionalist.”

Let’s take a look at some of his YouTube campaign videos. How about Melé on immigration?

First of all, you’ve gotta love that it starts with a drum major solo. Now that’s patriotic.

But that’s nothing compared to the money quote at 1:16. “If it isn’t possible to sneak into Disney World, how is it possible to sneak into the United States?”

Wow. Now that’s asking the tough question. I mean, surely if they can keep rascally budget-minded tourists out of Disney World’s 40-square miles, then the U.S. should have no problem keeping desperate employment/better-life-seeking immigrants from crossing our 1,969 miles of Mexican borderland. That just makes sense.

Some video production notes for the Melé staff (just trying to help out):

  • In your video, you go back and forth between two shots — the audio would have us believe this was one seamless dialogue — but in one shot Melé is standing, and in the other he’s sitting.
  • Also, it’s weird that in the “sitting” shot he starts each sentence looking in Linda’s direction, before turning and facing the camera. If I was Linda I would’ve been like “WTF, man? You’re supposed to be talking to me.”

In this next Melé classic, he’s talking to “Irene” about abortion. It’s kinda funny though, Irene seems to have the exact same porch as Linda (from the video above). The 17th must be crazy homogeneous, yo. Check it out:

But the real kicker is the campaign commercial from his website. It includes what may someday be known as the single best quote in New York campaign history.

At 1:27 — “I’ve provided security services to war-torn Africa, the Middle East, Israel and hot spots around the globe,” said Melé in his video. “I fall in love with America every time I return from one of those UNCLEAN NATIONS.”

Now that’s just worldly.