Those who met clothing salesman Arnold Schuster in 1952 would not have imagined that he would be responsible for the capture of one of the most notorious bank robbers in American history, or that his own assassination would bring down the head of one of the largest crime families in the country.
Willie Sutton is still famous for his answer when asked why he robbed banks. "That's where the money is." Back then, he had a reputation as one of the most polite bank robbers ever. He always treated victims and bystanders with uncommon courtesy. He also had an acute talent for escaping from prison.
Clothing salesman Arnold Schuster was on a New York City subway when he recognized Willie Sutton. Sutton had escaped yet again, this time from a prison in Pennsylvania. He was known to have a taste for fashion, so his FBI poster had been distributed to clothing outlets. Schuster followed Sutton to a gas station and notified police.
His role in the capture brought Schuster some minor fame. He later appeared on the television game show I've Got a Secret. Crime boss Albert Anastasia had never met Willie Sutton, but he happened to be watching the television program and flew into a rage. "I can't stand squealers!" he reportedly shouted "Hit that guy!" He ordered the killing of the young clothing salesman.
Supposedly, that killing contributed to the killing of Anastasia by crime associates a few years later. Gangsters killed each other in those days, sometimes in spectacular fashion. But the killing of civilians, even witnesses who testified in prosecutions, was forbidden.
That was not all because of altruism. The ethic was because of the cost of public opinion. When non-combatants were murdered, crackdowns would follow. Income from crime would go down, way down.
That's what happened after clothing salesman Arnold Schuster was killed. The cost hit all of New York's crime families. Anastasia had murdered a civilian. The public was enraged, Anastasia was responsible.
Watching some of the coverage of the activities in New Jersey brings to mind the violent saga of Willie Sutton, Albert Anastasia, and poor Arnold Schuster.
Rick Ungar, writing for Forbes Magazine, describes what he sees as the prevailing ethic of New Jersey politics:
I strongly suspect that what Mayor Zimmer is alleging is, indeed, representative of “politics as usual” in America and similar to behavior that most elected officials have participated in simply as a matter of how things are done.
- Rick Ungar, Forbes Magazine January 20, 2014
That's pretty much the way some of the earlier charges of bullying came across.
Adam Schneider, the mayor of Long Branch says he only got cooperation on a utility project after he endorsed Christie for re-election. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop says he stopped getting access to the governor's office after he declined to endorse. Olympic star Carl Lewis was thinking of running against a friend of Christie until he was warned off. An appointment to some athletic council would get cancelled if he ran.
Policy threats, appointment cancellations, public projects backed or not backed, all are considered to be part of political strength. That sort of wheeling and dealing will be familiar to moviegoers who saw the movie Lincoln. It wasn't just cinema. The 16th President really did apply carrots and sticks.
That's what we often expect from those we elect.
The bridge block with traffic tied up for hours and hours on successive days is something different. Memos show public officials close to Governor Christie reacting to the suffering of little children sitting in school buses throughout the morning of the first day of school.
I feel badly about the kids ... I guess.
And the reply: They are the children of Buono voters - Buono being Christie's election opponent.
Granting or denying hurricane relief funds to people trying to survive puts political pressure way beyond any level that can be identified as strength. It goes beyond the outer limits of bullying. The allegation can be read one of two ways.
Chris Christie's Lieutenant Governor threatened to deny funds desperately needed by Hoboken residents unless Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer would clear some bothersome zoning regulations aside for a Christie ally. The deal involved a construction project worth many millions.
or the alternative allegation:
Chris Christie's Lieutenant Governor offered to shift funds desperately needed by other areas to Hoboken instead, if Hoboken's Mayor Dawn Zimmer would clear those regulations.
This is not American politics as usual, or even everyday New Jersey politics.
Intimidating politicians is sometimes considered political strength, sometimes political bullying. Depends on which side you take.
Going after commuters, school children, and hurricane victims goes to a level Americans don't tolerate.
Take a lesson from Albert Anastasia.
Chris Christie's people went after civilians.
At The Moderate Voice, Ron Beasley recommends the recent movie at Netflix documenting Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign. Ron sees Mitt much more sympathetically now. Among his insights is that Mitt didn't really want to win. As I see it, that observation would be evidence of a level of Romney patriotism I had failed to detect.
Conservative James Wigderson gives politics and policy a moment's rest (whew). He explains what has to be the silliest minor effort to protect Justin Bieber from his latest juvenile antics. People with this sort of budding sense of entitlement may grow up to be Ted Nugent.
- Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot is celebrating. It's the anniversary of the landing of the Mars rover Opportunity. Its life was designed to go for an ambitious 3 months. Tim explains how long it actually sent information to us from the red planet.
There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President
- President Barack Obama, interviewed by New Yorker Magazine, November 24, 2013
On the surface, it might seem as if the President's observation is not all that controversial. Do we really think there is no racism among those who reflexively oppose President Obama? But conservatives point out that some people are more willing to support the first black President because he is black. Couldn't President Obama have admitted that some people give him the benefit of the doubt?
Well, actually, let's see what more he said.
“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said.
“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”
- President Barack Obama, interviewed by New Yorker Magazine, November 24, 2013
It might seem as if some conservatives are accusing the President of not saying what he really did say.
So the president believes race may play a factor among some white voters who don't much flip over him, telling the New Yorker, and I quote, "There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president."
What's remarkable is that five years into his presidency, this issue of race still even comes up. And on this Martin Luther King Day, no less, seems the latest excuse de jour served up for a presidency that's flailing, and approval ratings that are tumbling.
But wait a minute, when those ratings were soaring, I guess race was not an issue? Or now that they're going the other way, have they suddenly become an issue?
- Neil Cavuto, Fox News personality, January 20, 2014
You can see Neil Cavuto's point. By saying that some people don't like having a black President, while others kind of like having a black President, the President is making an issue out of race. Consider what the President said when he spoke directly about race and the issues.
“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues,” he went on.
“You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government—that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable—and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments.
But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there.
- President Barack Obama, November 24, 2013
So we can see how President Obama is using race to make excuses. Conservatives are outraged that the President did not at least acknowledge that it's possible to oppose him on policy grounds. You don't have to be racist to oppose the policies of America's first black President.
What exactly did he actually say, right after pointing out the history that associates racism with some of the policy arguments used against him?
And so I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans."
So President Obama is pointing out that some people don't like him because of his race and others like him because of his race. He knows there is an overlap in history of states rights and other issues with some of the arguments used against him, and that that is the very reason progressives should be careful not simply to dismiss those arguments as racist.
He is making the argument that some conservatives think he is arguing against.
Well, let's see how other conservatives react to his agreement with them.
Here's Glenn Beck:
He said in New Yorker Magazine "There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President." Mr. President, I mean, this is so tired. This is so tired.
- Glenn Beck, January 20, 2014
The very tired Glen beck is joined in his assessment by fellow host Stu Burguerre, reacting to the idea that some people don't like having a black President.
And it's obvious, he sets such a ridiculous standard. Are there some people? I guess there is someone somewhere.
- Stu Burguerre, January 20, 2014
And, of course, associate Pat Gray, who protests with the counter fact:
There are some black people who don't like the idea of a (Voices in unison:) white President.
- Pat Gray, January 20, 2014
I especially like that chorus of voices chanting the same point, the point they don't seem to know that President Obama already made for them in somewhat calmer terms.
A few seconds later, Mr. Gray expresses greater enthusiasm.
Making excuses for himself. Going to the easiest card he can play, and that's the racist card. Shut up!
- Pat Gray, January 20, 2014
Rush Limbaugh is a dependable source of conservative perspective.
"There's no doubt, no doubt, that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president," Obama said in the article. So, what, white Americans have just figured out Obama's black in the last two years? This is classic. This is really classic.
- Rush Limbaugh, January 20, 2014
Of course, not all conservatives have gotten the memo. Some do not perceive the race card being played. For example, Bill O'Reilly is a little more moderate in his assessment of the Obama claim that some folks don't like having a black President and some folks do.
That assessment? 100 percent correct.
- Bill O'Reilly, January 21, 2014
O'Reilly may seem to be making an obvious observation. President Obama says some folks reflexively attack him because they don't like having a black President. Some folks give him the benefit of the doubt because they do like having a black President. And, although there is an unfortunate historical entanglement between some conservative arguments and racism, the President cautions progressives not to dismiss conservative concerns out of hand.
You can see why some conservatives might see very little objectionable. But here is something Bill O'Reilly and others may have missed.
The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.”
Well, there you have it at last. Obama thinks it's important to provide health protection to poor folks in Mississippi as well as Massachusetts, because we are all one country. One country.
Talk about playing the race card.
"And on this Martin Luther King Day, no less, seems the latest excuse de jour served up."
"Mr. President, I mean, this is so tired. This is so tired."
"Are there some people? I guess there is someone somewhere."
"There are some black people who don't like the idea of a white President."
"Going to the easiest card he can play, and that's the racist card. Shut up!"
"...white Americans have just figured out Obama's black in the last two years?"
And those who, for some reason, just don't see the race card being played. Those blind souls who have become complacent at the President's outrageous statements.
"That assessment? 100 percent correct."
Susanne Atanus (R-IL), Congressional Candidate, explains
why God is now against the United States.
From the Daily Herald, (Chicago, IL):
"I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first," Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as punishment for gay rights and legalized abortions.
"God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions," she said. "Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it's in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God."
- More -
Explaining his call for the arrest and hanging of President Barack Obama
He should be executed for treason. I think the appropriate punishment is death. They killed Benedict Arnold. (Obama) shouldn't be allowed to kill Americans without a trial.
- Joshua Black (R-FL), interviewed by Tampa Bay Times, January 20, 2014
Lesson sent by a friend:
We've made it clear that we're going to move on a common-sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration.
- John Boehner, (R-OH), Speaker of the House, November 15, 2013
Any reviews of a past perspective can be satisfying or humbling. Pick a card, any card: it depends on which selections are chosen.
Over three years ago, as the tea-party triumph of 2010 became fact, I compared one aspect of the Kennedy presidency with something similar about the Obama administration. In foreign affairs, the contrast between Kennedy's tough and intelligent negotiating ability and the way he was portrayed by his political enemies was remarkable.
John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were pictured at opposite ends of a wide field. "Let's meet halfway," says the Kennedy figure. Khrushchev answers, "Okay. You first." Kennedy walks to the center of the gap. "Now you," says Kennedy. Khrushchev strolls halfway to Kennedy's new position, stopping about one fourth into the gap. "Your turn again."
I managed to get in a little snide sarcasm as I recalled the nuclear disaster that almost came from the Cuban missile crisis and the way Kennedy skillfully extracted the world from that fate. I mentioned former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino, who confessed having to be schooled by her husband because she had no idea what that crisis was all about, or even that there had been a Cuban missile crisis. "She still represents the best and the brightest of contemporary conservative thought on the Fox network," I wrote.
In reality, Kennedy's aggressive ability in dealing with a nuclear adversary seemed to accelerate with time. Republicans publicly regarded as weakness his willingness to negotiate at all.
I suggested that Barack Obama's conduct of national security was equally strong, targeting for destruction those who would take on as a tactic terrorism against the United States. The life expectancy of terrorists had, by then, become much shorter, a brief span of brutish fear. I even dared to hope that "with luck, bin Laden may one day be captured or killed."
I believe I reflected the frustration of many with the posture of the administration on domestic policy. The Obama administration seemed completely inept when dealing with Republicans. On one issue after another, the administration would enter negotiations with concessions. Republicans would demand additional concessions, which frequently met with compliance. As negotiations then commenced, Republicans would demand more and more, until finally encountering resistance.
Republicans would then declare Obama to be completely unreasonable, insisting on having his own way, unwilling to compromise. They would then oppose proposals that contained much of their own wishlists.
This was the model for much of the healthcare debate. The administration would adopt the sane half of the Republican agenda before talks even began. Republicans, never mollified, would oppose even their own ideas. The administration was essentially negotiating with itself. Would this concession work? Republicans would say no. How about that concession? Nope. Something more? No, no, no.
At one point, David Axelrod got really tough. The administration was willing to talk about further concessions, but Republicans couldn't have everything. Why was the administration giving up so much at the outset? Axelrod explained. "We have to deal with the world as we find it. The world of what it takes to get this done."
So the pattern continued. Republicans would demand concessions, get the concessions they demanded, then oppose the deal they had insisted on. It was the Kennedy-Khrushchev caricature come to life. "Let's meet halfway" followed by "We'll skip our turn, it's your turn again."
Administration personnel have changed. So has circumstance. As did Kennedy, Obama seems to have become more skilled with time, at least in not giving away the store early on.
On immigration reform, it is clear the Obama administration has been willing to get tough on border security. Illegal immigration has slowed to the lowest level in many years. But those who have been in this country for decades should have some path to open residency. Those brought here as little kids especially should be allowed citizenship.
Republicans want tougher, much tougher, border enforcement as a condition for immigration reform. A humane approach may be okay, if the price is steep enough for immigrants who want to earn citizenship. But border patrols are the real key for the tough conservatism the lower house of Congress wants. Debate focuses on what multiple the number of border patrol officers should be increased. How tough should tough get before it is finally tough enough?
Stalwart legislative optimists have cobbled together something comprehensive. Conservatives will have their many multiples of tough, tough border enforcement. In return, existing undocumented immigrants will be treated humanely, and allowed hope of acceptance.
But now conservatives have one little non-negotiable demand.
The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House. And frankly, I'll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.
- John Boehner, (R-OH), Speaker of the House, November 15, 2013
All that comprehensive stuff is okay, as long as we go slowly and carefully. First we will have the many new layers of tough immigration enforcement at the border.
Later on, we'll get around to humane treatment. We promise.
But you meet us halfway first.
I want us to deal with this issue. But I want to deal with it in a common sense, step-by-step way.
- John Boehner, (R-OH), Speaker of the House, November 15, 2013
Thanks to alert reader TT
From KREM - Spokane, WA
SPOKANE, Wash.--The damage was minimal in a car crash in early January but the shock value was not. A woman was stopped at a red light at Crestline and Empire when a car came out of nowhere bumping into her tire.
The woman said she saw no one inside the car at first.
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From the Baltimore Sun:
Hundreds of people who got stuck on Maryland's glitch-ridden health exchange have ended up on the phone with Sue Lunz. And her pottery supply business. In Seattle.
The state mistakenly listed her company's 1-800 number on the website, directing some people who couldn't pick a health insurance provider not to the state's call center, but to a West Coast business that manufactures specialty kilns.
- More -
Thanks to alert reader TB
Well, if all these headlines aren't enough of a clue, Chris Christie's bridge controversy is getting enormous media attention.
If my next guest is right, so much attention, just consider this. The big three networks alone devoted 17 times more coverage to this story in one day, one day, than they devoted to the IRS scandal in six months.
- Neil Cavuto, Fox News Personality, January 10, 2014
Neil Cavuto was introducing Brent Bozell from Media Research Center. Media Research Center had conducted a study, performing a raw comparison of network coverage of the IRS scandal against the closing of targeted lanes onto the busiest bridge in the world.
The allegation in the IRS scandal was that the Obama administration had used the IRS to question the tax exempt status of conservative activist groups.
The allegation in the Bridge lane blocks was that the Christie administration had caused a traffic backup everyday for 4 days. The backup lasted each day for several hours.
The Media Research Center later expanded its comparison. They had originally contrasted 24 hours that contained massive Christie coverage with 6 months that contained itsy bitsy coverage of the IRS scandal. They have since sort of doubled down. Instead of 24 hours, they now look at 48 hours of lane closure news. They compare that with 6 months of IRS news. So the insane ratio has gone from 17 to 1 all the way up to 44 to 1.
Comparing the two allegations seems a little like contrasting a boulder to a grain of sand. When Nixon aides wrote memos formulating plans to use the IRS and law enforcement against political enemies, they were laying the foundation for what later became an important part of the Watergate scandal.
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
- Memorandum of Inquiry
To: Assistant White House Chief of Staff, Lawrence Higby
From White House Counsel, John Dean
August 16, 1971
So we're talking about pretty serous news when we look at manipulation of the IRS. Doesn't that deserve at least as much network coverage as some traffic jam in New Jersey?
But there is another problem with that 44 to 1 comparison.
The Media Research Center is kind of comparing cotton with cotton candy. The IRS story had been brewing for a while. It hit the news in May, 2013, with the release of an Inspector General report. There was lots of coverage.
The Media Research Center kind of ignores that. They begin their six months of IRS coverage in July, 2013, two months later, after the story kind of petered out.
The 6 months being compared comes after it was discovered that the IRS was not only targeting conservative groups, but liberal groups as well. The IRS was following a law from the Eisenhower era that said no political activity was allowed for that particular exemption. The order to follow that law came from a Bush appointee, a life-long Republican.
July was also a little after it had become very clear that Republicans were selectively releasing testimony to make it seem like only conservative groups were targeted and that the White House was involved. They were holding back secret information that made it clear there was no White House involvement and no selective targeting.
The blanket Christie coverage that the center compared begins at the very minute emails came to light in which top Christie administration officials ordered the traffic tie up, then wrote triumphant observations about the consequences. News of the hours that little children had to wait on school buses in traffic was greeted by Christie officials with particular glee.
The study was a comparison of 6 months of almost zero news with 24, then 48, hours of news that simply could not be ignored. Laughing at little kids stranded in traffic? Really?
The Media Research Center was established a few years ago by conservative political activists with funding from various conservative groups, including the famed Koch brothers. The purpose was not to study media news coverage. It was to discover and publicize cases of perceived liberal bias.
Since this study was published it has been picked up by the usual suspects, conservative polemicists and, of course Fox News. You can find it pretty much anywhere on the net where is a conservative political site.
News media did indeed devote lots more coverage over 2 days to the little traffic jam in New Jersey than they did to the huge, huge IRS scandal over the previous 6 months. I suppose we could also note that other hugely important stories were ignored during those six months, including the burning of the White House by British troops, the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, and the entire Korean War.
Talk about bias!
In fairness, we should let conservative activist and founder of Media research Center L. Brent Bozell have the last word. He speaks on Fox News, having just been introduced by Neil Cavuto.
But you look at the IRS scandal and you see that since, since July of 2013, there has been a total of two minutes and 38 seconds devoted to the scandal, with one development after another after another on this, which is completely untouched by the same media who believed they need to spend two days worth of non-stop coverage on Chris Christie.
Oh NOooo! This is bad. The Heathen Republican, who curtailed his thoughtful conservative contributions to internet writing, will be deleting the website. We all have 30 days to find and copy favorite posts. Better get digging.
Another week, another killing in a movie theatre. This time the victim is a guy in Florida texting his little girl during previews, before the movie itself. The perpetrator says existing stand your ground law entitled him to use deadly force. Meanwhile, expand those very laws.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, reports a different angle of the recent massive West Virginia chemical spill. Seems the company will dodge financial accountability for the damage by filing for a limited bankruptcy. As Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court reminds us, the company is a person.
James Wigderson considers character over party in endorsing one of three candidates for City Attorney of Waukesha, WI. A partisan Democrat is rejected because he signed an anti-Governor Walker petition. The Republican is rejected for helping destroy evidence on behalf of a Republican ally of the same Governor.
- Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes sees life as moments. He sees lost moments as a source of human tragedy. He sees slavery as stolen time, and so stolen life. He celebrates freedom.