Saturday, 25 July 2009

GOVERNOR CORZINE AND THE NEW JERSEY BUSTS

Ken Berwitz

Earlier today I blogged about the huge New Jersey sting operation that has resulted in dozens of arrests.  Most of those arrests are politicians and almost all the politicians are Democrats, not Republicans.

Who initiated this hugely successful sting?  Jon Corzine's opponent for Governor, Chris Christie.  Under whose watch did these goings-on take place?  Chris Christies opponent for Governor, Jon Corzine.

It isn't hard to see who this benefits.

From today's New York Daily News:

Corruption arrests in N.J. hurt Gov. Corzine's re-election bid, thrill GOP

     Saturday, July 25th 2009, 12:14 AM

New Jersey Republicans tried to hide their glee on Friday over a corruption probe that could send many Democrats to jail - and GOPer Chris Christie to the governor's office.

Christie, a former U.S. attorney running a strong challenge to Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, wasted little time putting up a new TV ad touting his suddenly spot-on law-and-order background.

"I put corrupt public officials in jail - Republicans and Democrats," Christie said in the ad. "As governor, I'll make the same tough, independent decisions."

Left unmentioned was that Christie, who left his Justice Department post seven months ago, initiated the probe that led to bribery charges against dozens of political insiders, most of them Democrats.

The sweep is unquestionably bad news for Corzine, who was not implicated, but will have to explain how such wide-ranging corruption was allowed to flourish on his watch, experts said.

"It is huge," said Steve Adubato, Jr., a Jersey political analyst and co-host of a popular public affairs show, "Inside Trenton." "It now frames the governor's race very clearly around the issue of political corruption."

Yesterday, Corzine called on all implicated officials - among them three mayors and two state assemblymen - to resign their posts.

"I think the appearance, let alone the fact, means people ought to step aside," he said in Newark.

Corzine's comments came as allies leaked word that today he would name reformist state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a 74-year-old, to run as his lieutenant governor on the ballot. Earlier, Corzine unleashed the biggest Democrat of all - President Obama, who wrote a letter in support of the ex-chairman of Wall St. powerhouse Goldman Sachs.

"I hope to work with him for years to come," Obama wrote.

Many saw the presidential missive as a clear signal that Corzine had no intention of stepping down.

Even before the arrests, Corzine was trailing Christie by 12 percentage points, the most recent Quinnipiac University poll showed.

That's led some nervous Dems to mull possible replacements, among them Newark Mayor Cory Booker, one insider told the Daily News. For now, even Republicans expect Corzine to fight on.

"Nobody questions Corzine's personal ethics," said one GOP strategist. "But I think people are starting to say he's done nothing to change the old rules of the game."

Wow. 

Corzine was in trouble anyway, because of the lousy situation New Jersey is right now.  But, given a combination of factors - he has unlimited personal resources, he has bought elections in the past and the Republican Party of New Jersey is beyond incompetent - I expected him to win anyway.

This changes the calculus completely.

What is Corzine going to do?  The best he can say is that he personally was not involved (which begs the issue of how it could happen while he was in charge). 

He can also say that the fact almost all politicians arrested were Democrats means Christie was engaged in a partisan witchhunt.  But that forces him to produce Republicans who should also have been arrested, which requires some kind of proof, doesn't it?  And it also keeps this issue right on the front page, exactly where Christie wants it to be.

Corzine, and the New Jersey Democratic Party, are in a very, very bad spot.

One other thing:  I take issue with one part of the Daily News' otherwise excellent article:  Jon Corzine's ethics most certainly have been questioned.  In another blog I will detail the sorry story of his personal relationship with Carla Katz, former President of local 1034 of the CWA (Communications Workers of America), and how much money he gave her to shut her up when it ended.

Zeke Subject: Please !!! .... New Jersey has Time: 1248625217 Please !!! .... New Jersey has the finest Politicians that Money can Buy. .... And, they are HONEST. ... Once they are Bought... they Stay Bought. ()


REPORTER ROSENBERG & COMMANDER GORDON

Ken Berwitz

This is not your average, run-of-the-mill media bias.  This is in its own league.

From www.mediabistro.com:

Friday, Jul 24

Man Bites Dog: U.S. Navy Commander Files Sex Complaint Against Female Miami

FishbowlDC Exclusive: US Navy Commander Jeffrey D. Gordon has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg.

 

FishbowlDC obtained a copy of the July 22, 2009 letter addressed to Miami Herald Senior VP and Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal. In the complaint, Gordon calls for a "thorough investigation" to put an end to Rosenberg's "appalling behavior" that includes comments about the Commander's sexual orientation.

 

The complaint outlines examples of Rosenberg's alleged "abusive and degrading, comments of an explicitly sexual nature."

 

Gordon writes:

 

To me, in front of another journalist with reference to why 9/11 co-defendant Mustafa Al Hawsawi was seated on a pillow in court:

 

"Have you ever had a red hot poker shoved up your a**? Have you ever had a broomstick shoved up your a**? Have you ever had anything in your a**? How would you know how it feels if it never happened to you? Admit it, you liked it? No wonder why you like to stay in South Beach on your Miami visits."

 

Rosenberg, to CNN's Jamie McIntyre in front of roughly 15 journalists in the Guantanamo Commission's press center:

 

To Jamie - "Aren't you in the BOQ (Bachelor Officers Quarters)? I didn't think you were in tent city because these people (military public affairs escorts) are so far up your ass that I figured you must be in the BOQ."

 

To Me [Gordon] - "Why isn't he in the BOQ? You're kissing his ass so much that I can't believe that you're letting him stay with the rest of us. Do you love him?"

 

The Commander claims that Rosenberg said to members of the press and enlisted military men and women: "Seeing him [Gordon] topless in tent city was the most repulsive sight I've ever seen in my life." Most recently, while walking to court, Gordon says that Rosenberg obstructed an AP pool photographer from taking his picture, saying "Well, I know you like to have your picture taken to show people you are actually working down here, but guess what, not today..."

 

Gordon, who also serves as the Pentagon Spokesman for Western Hemisphere and Guantanamo issues also accuses Rosenberg of "bullying" reporters from various outlets including New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, CBC, Der Siegel and Al Jazeera. He claims that over the years, Rosenberg has labeled her peers in the press and Gordon's colleagues "bitches," "stupid," "lazy," "incompetent," "Nazis," and "Saddam Hussein-like."

 

A full copy of Gordon's complaint here.

 

*The Miami Herald was not available for comment when FishbowlDC contacted them. We'll continue to update as this story unfolds.

If this is even remotely close to true (and there are a lot witnesses being claimed, so I suspect it is), this reporter should be summarily fired and the Miami Herald needs a front page apology to its readers for anything she's ever written for the paper.

As for Carol Rosenberg - again assuming any of this is true - maybe she can go on tour with former New York Times writer Jayson Blair. 

What interesting stories they would tell.


SGT. LASHLEY: ON THE SPOT

Ken Berwitz

When I was in my teens, I read a very funny story in Playboy magazine (I only looked at the literary stuff in Playboy.  Honest.).  It was about the "Cold War" between the USA and the then-USSR, and described a neutral country's flag as "A hammer and sickle on a field of red, white and blue, with the words 'In God We Trust....if there is one".  It was a hilarious way of showing the near-impossibility of demonstrating neutrality in those times.

I was reminded of that story a couple of days ago, when I read about Sgt. Leon Lashley - a Black police officer who is inadvertently thrust into the middle of "Gates-gate".

Here, from the Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune) is Sgt. Lashley's dilemma, and how he is trying to walk a nearly impossible tightrope between his status as a police officer, acquaintance (maybe friend, I don't know) of Sgt. Crowley, and a Black man stuck in the middle of a racial incident in a city with a rich history of racial tensions:

Black officer at Gates home during arrest said scholar acted strange, supports arrest

| Associated Press Writer

12:57 PM CDT, July 24, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) A black police officer who was at Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s home when the black Harvard scholar was arrested says he fully supports how his white fellow officer handled the situation.

Sgt. Leon Lashley says Gates was probably tired and surprised when Sgt. James Crowley demanded identification from him as officers investigated a report of a burglary. Lashley says Gates' reaction to Crowley was "a little bit stranger than it should have been."

Asked if Gates should have been arrested, Lashley said supported Crowley "100 percent."

Gates has said he was the victim of racial profiling.

President Barack Obama says the officers "acted stupidly." Lashley called Obama's remark "unfortunate" and said he should be allowed to take it back.

How unfair to Sgt. Lashley.  He has to simultaneously evaluate the quality of both Sgt Crowley's police work and Professor Gates' behavior, with his fellow officers and his fellow Black citizens scrutinizing and evaluating him on every word.  Little wonder he is trying so hard to be so diplomatic.

My advice, for Sgt. Lashley, for whatever it's worth, is that, no matter what he says, he's probably going to please some of the players here and outrage others.  That liberates him to just be as honest as he can.  So do it.


THE NEW JERSEY ARRESTS

Ken Berwitz

Investigations of corruption aren't exactly unknown to New Jersey. But this may well be the biggest of them all, involving literally dozens of politicians from state assembly to city mayors -- and a group of rabbis involved with the Syrian Jewish communities of Deal, New Jersey and Brookyn, NY.

This is from www.nj.com (the Newark Star-Ledger web site).  Be sure to click on its link to get additional details:

Massive N.J. corruption sting targets mayors, legislators, rabbis

by Ted Sherman and Joe Ryan/The Star-Ledger

Friday July 24, 2009, 5:05 AM

 

NEWARK -- The bribes went down in diners, living rooms and parking lots. New Jersey Assemblymen took them, mayors took them, and so did dozens of others.

 

Orthodox rabbis, acting more like crime bosses than religious leaders, laundered millions through synagogues and yeshivas in Deal, one of the state's wealthiest towns. And a Realtor tried to sell an informant a black market kidney for $160,000.

 

 Those were some of the allegations federal prosecutors made today in what could prove to be the biggest New Jersey scandal of them all.

 

The revelations came after hundreds of federal agents swept across the state, arresting public servants and religious leaders as part of a two-year investigation into corruption and international money-laundering that authorities described as unprecedented - even in a state known for its scandals.

 

Full Star-Ledger coverage of the New Jersey corruption arrests

 

It was a sting operation that could have been taken from the pages of an Elmore Leonard novel: the FBI and IRS agents arrested five rabbis, two New Jersey state legislators, three mayors, political operatives, and many others, as part of a probe that spanned from Hoboken to Israel.

 

Other records were taken from Saint Peter's College in Jersey City and from at least one synagogue in Deal. Meanwhile, a top member of the Corzine administration unexpectedly resigned after agents arrived at his home and office with evidence boxes.

 

The arrests were the result of two separate investigations that used the same informant, a man who moved easily between the world of the rabbis and the world of Jersey politics. The rabbis are charged with operating money laundering network by funneling cash through yeshivas and non-profit organizations they were associated with. The politicians are accused of taking outright bribes in exchange for favors.

 

And at the center of it all was an unnamed informant who sources and defendants later identified as Solomon Dwek - once a high-flying Monmouth County developer and son of a prominent Monmouth County rabbi who remains on bail for a 2006 bank fraud case that has never come to trial. Dwek , according to the federal complaint, secretly taped those targeted in the investigation for more than two years.

 

Prosecutors said the case began when the informant infiltrated an existing international money laundering network being run by a group of rabbis in New York and New Jersey. It then expanded into a public corruption case through a middleman who moved in both worlds, officials said.

 

Some of the bribes to elected officials were paid through political contributions, the complaint said, often through "straw" donors who wrote checks in their names or businesses to comply with campaign finance regulations.

 

Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra Jr. said the arrests underscored the continuing pervasiveness of public corruption in New Jersey, where more than 130 public officials have been prosecuted in recent years.

"For these defendants, corruption was a way of life," Marra said. "They existed in an ethics free zone. And they exploited giant loopholes in the state's campaign contribution rules."

 

 Among those charged included newly elected Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, 32, and rabbi Saul Kassin, the 87-year-old spiritual leader of the close-knit Syrian Sephardic Jewish community in Deal and Brooklyn.

 

Others were Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, 64; Anthony Suarez, 42, the mayor of Ridgefield; Leona Beldini, 74, the Jersey City deputy mayor; Assemblymen L. Harvey Smith (D-Hudson), 60 and Daniel Van Pelt (R-Ocean), 44; rabbi Edmund Nahum, 56, of Deal; and rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, of Long Branch. In all, 44 people were charged, 29 of them from New Jersey.

Bribes.  The selling of body parts for $$$.  Elected officials in handcuffs.  "Spiritual leaders" in handcuffs.  It doesn't get much worse than that.

We'll wait to see how this all plays out.  But the stain on New Jersey, and especially on a segment of its Jewish community, already is large, ugly and, I suspect, likely to spread a lot further.

steve schneider you didn't play guess the party... it took me awhile to find out all but one were democrats. steve (07/26/09)


JON CORZINE AND CARLA KATZ

Ken Berwitz

Earlier today I challenged the premise that no one questions New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's personal ethics.  At that time I promised to detail Mr. Corzine's relationship with Carla Katz, former President of local 1034, Communication Workers of America.

Time to make good on that promise.

This says-it-all timeline, published over two years ago, comes to use from www.enlightennj.blogspot.com:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Jon Corzine, Carla Katz Timeline

Carla Katz, president of New Jerseys largest state worker union and Governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, have had a very unusual relationship. The following is a Corzine Katz timeline.

Shortly after Corzines 24-year career as a bond trader and executive ended abruptly with his 1999 ouster from Goldman Sachs, he launched his Senate campaign.

Corzine met Katz in 1999 during his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat to represent New Jersey.

Jon Corzine wins election to the U.S. Senate, November 2000.

Katz, a mother of two children, divorced her husband Larry McKim in November 2001.

In March 2002, Corzine announced his separation from Joanne, his wife of 33 years.

December 18, 2002, Corzine provided a $470,000 mortgage to Katz through JSC Investments, a company owned solely by Corzine. Katz used the money to buy her ex-husbands share of their Hunterdon County home.

Corzines divorce from his wife, Joanne, became final in November 2003. Joanne Corzine later told the reporters that her ex-husband's affair with Carla Katz led to the breakup of their marriage.

Corzine and Katz have stated their romantic relationship ended in July 2004.

December 9, 2004, one week after Corzine formally began his candidacy for Governor of New Jersey, Corzine forgave the $470,000 loan and paid the gift taxes, totaling more than $160,000.

In April, 2005 Katz won a state exemption from building restrictions in the Highlands preservation zone. That cleared the way for planned major renovations of the 19th-century farmhouse, situated on 10 acres in Hunterdon County.

On June 27, 2005 Katzs state employee union endorsed Corzine for Governor. Kicking off the ceremony in Atlantic City. Katz introduced Corzine by giving him a peck on the cheek and telling an anecdote about the first time they met.

August 4, 2005 the New York Times reveals Corzines $630,000 gift (loan, plus taxes) to Katz. Corzine said the transaction was completely above board and disclosed as required by senate ethics rules.

August 8, 2005, Corzine said he wrote off the loan because Katz couldn't afford to repay it. He was adamant that his financial relationship with Katz had ended: "We have no additional gifts still outstanding."

August 2005, it was discovered that Corzine failed to report the loan to Katz on senate financial disclosure forms.

August 2005, Corzine claimed, on the advice of legal counsel, he did not believe he was obligated to report the loan because his relationship and loan to Carla Katz were personal.

August 2005, it was reported Corzine had properly disclosed at least two other personal loans made to female friends during the same time period as the loan made to Katz. Corzine explained the difference in his loan disclosures with "I knew them as human beings, not as romantic, serious relationships."

In late August 2005, a complaint was filed with the Senate Ethics Committee accusing Senator Corzine with falsifying a federal disclosure document and committing a federal felony by failing to disclose a $470,000 loan he made to a state employee union president, Carla Katz.

November 2005, Corzine wins election for New Jersey Governor.

December 2006, Katz bought the rental condo, which she has used as a part-time residence for at least two years, through a newly formed corporation, Neruda Hoboken LLC, for $1.1 million. State and county records show Katz is the sole corporate officer listed in the company's registration. The company's name is listed on the deed as owner, but Katz signed the settlement papers. The filing in Hudson County shows no mortgage on the property.

January 2007, just weeks after Katz bought the $1.1 million condominium, she began a 3,200-square-foot addition and extensive renovations on her Hunterdon farmhouse.

March 4, 2007, Corzine admits to the Star-Ledger that he gave Katz substantial gifts beyond what he previously disclosed and hinted that he pre-funded them to avoid "ongoing financial connections".

March 7, 2007, the Star-Ledger reports Katz $1.1 million condo purchase came at the same time negotiators for her union and the Corzine administration were entering intense negotiations over a new contract for state workers. Katz is president of the largest of five Communications Workers of America locals that are about to vote on the four-year deal.

 So tell me:  what do you think of Jon Corzine's personal ethics? 


OBAMA'S U-TURN ON AFGHANISTAN

Ken Berwitz

When a President takes one position on an issue and then another one that is entirely opposite of the first, you'd think the media would be covering it pretty heavily.

When the position regards a war in progress, you'd think the media would be giving it lead story status.

But this is President Obama and these is our wonderful "neutral" media of today.  So I had to go to www.sweetness-light.com for some honest coverage:

Obama: Victory Not Goal in Afghanistan

July 24th, 2009

From ABC News (via YouTube) and Fox News:

Obama: Victory Not Necessarily Goal in Afghanistan

 President Obama has put securing Afghanistan near the top of his foreign policy agenda, but "victory" in the war-torn country isnt necessarily the United States goal, he said Thursday in a TV interview.

 "Im always worried about using the word victory, because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur," Obama told ABC News.

 The enemy facing U.S. and Afghan forces isnt so clearly defined, he explained.

 "Were not dealing with nation states at this point. Were concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaedas allies," he said. "So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they cant attack the United States."

 "We are confident that if we are assisting the Afghan people and improving their security situation, stabilizing their government, providing help on economic development those things will continue to contract the ability of Al Qaeda to operate. And that is absolutely critical," Obama told ABC News

 Pressure from the public and opposition politicians is growing as soldiers bodies return home, and a poll released Thursday shows majorities in Britain, Germany and Canada oppose increasing their own troop levels in Afghanistan.

 Europeans and Canadians are growing weary of the war or at least their involvement in combat operations even as Obama is shifting military resources to Afghanistan away from Iraq.

 The United States, which runs the NATO-led force, has about 59,000 troops in Afghanistan nearly double the number a year ago and thousands more are on the way. There are about 32,000 other international troops in the country

 The leaders of the largest contributors to the coalition find themselves having to justify both their reasons for deploying troops and their management of the war effort

 And yet, as we noted at the time, almost exactly a year ago Mr. Obama was singing a very different tune.

 From the Associated Press:

 Obama says Afghanistan a war that we have to win

By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

July 15, 2008

 WASHINGTON Contending that the U.S. is not pursuing a sound strategy for keeping Americans safe, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Tuesday that fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan would be his top priority after ending the war in Iraq.

 "This is a war that we have to win," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery at the International Trade Center in Washington

 Of course Mr. Obama was campaigning for the Presidency back in July.

 Also remember how the Democrats, including of course Mr. Obama, always claimed that we should be concentrating on Afghanistan. And, just as importantly, we should have  more of our allies fighting alongside us in the war.

 Finally the Democrats have now gotten both of their purported wishes. The right war in the right place with plenty of other Western countries helping us.

 And yet, look at how poorly things are going. Any minute now our allies will turn tail and pull out. Which will give Mr. Obama an excuse to do the same.

 Which, come to think of it, was surely the Democrat plan all along.

I do not have a reasonable basis for agreeing with sweetness-light.com on this being the Democratic plan all along.  That one falls by the wayside.

But is President Obama not completely reversing field on his position here?  And if he is, where are the rest of our media?  Or are they too busy trying to explain away his freefalling poll numbers? 

How about a little professionalism here?  A little neutrality?  A little JOURNALISM?

Too much to ask?


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