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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘crime’

British Jewish Crime Boss Sues Prison for Kosher Meals

Monday, April 15th, 2013

An orthodox British Jew serving time in jail for trying to smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine is suing prison officials for discrimination by denying him kosher food, the London Sun reported.

Simon Price, 68, complained of “institutionalized anti-Semitism” and charged that although inmates are allowed to cook their own meals, he was given pots and pans that are used by non-Jewish inmates and come in contact with non-kosher food.

He also alleged that there are no Jewish texts in the prison library.

Price was sentenced to 35 years in jail in 2005 for the cocaine smuggling plot, and previously has served a prison term for a multi-million dollar robbery.

Mezuzah Arson Suspect Has Long Record of Crime

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Neither robbery, drugs, assault nor weapons can keep a man in jail and stop his appointed rounds of setting fire to mezuzahs containing verses from the Torah.

New York police are on  the prowl for Rubin Ublies, suspected of torching 11 mezuzahs in a Williamsburg apartment building on Monday, Holocaust Remembrance Day. He also is thought to have torched another mezuzah in the same apartment complex the following day.

Despite his Jewish-sounding first name, he is far from Jewish. An Hispanic, Ublies, age 35, also has a long record of crime, ranging from robbery, drugs, assault to weapons – and now arson, if he is caught and convicted.

The arsonist began his hate crime on Monday on the 13th floor and worked his way down to at least the third floor, burning the mezuzahs on the way while the residents were away.

Councilman David Greenfield is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Giuliani Still Being Slighted by Media Elites

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The last time we gathered here the topic of discussion was the hypocrisy of the late Ed Koch on racial matters, particularly in his constant berating of Rudy Giuliani for treating the city’s race hustlers with the skepticism they deserved – an approach actually pioneered by Koch himself during his own mayoralty.

But Giuliani never did get much love from the city’s permanent political establishment and its prestige media, as evidenced most recently by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, who in the wake of Koch’s passing called Koch, Fiorella La Guardia and Michael Bloomberg the city’s “three greatest mayors.”

La Guardia certainly belongs in the top three, and a strong case can be made for Koch, but Bloomberg? The only reason Bloomberg was elected mayor in the first place was the endorsement he received from Giuliani shortly after 9/11, when Giuliani had seized the nation’s imagination with his courageous leadership and Bloomberg was essentially running in political drag, having donned Republican vestments after a lifetime of dressing in liberal Democratic garb.

That’s not to say Bloomberg has been a bad mayor, just that listing him at the top of the heap with La Guardia and Koch ignores the unprecedented challenges Giuliani faced on assuming office and the way he went about transforming the city.

Put it this way: imagine that Michael Bloomberg rather than Rudy Giuliani had succeeded David Dinkins in January 1994. Would political reporter Andrew Kirtzman have been able to describe Bloomberg’s tenure the way he wrote of Giuliani in Emperor of the City, his gripping account of the Giuliani years:

“This is the story of a defiant man whose strength, resolve, and vision helped bring a city back from a state of bedlam. It’s an account of how a person with no experience in municipal government outsmarted its political leaders, union chiefs, and media lords and ended up changing the face of New York…. It’s about a leader whose accomplishments rank among the most dramatic in urban history.”

Giuliani succeeded the inept David Dinkins at a time most observers had given up on New York as a governable city. Bloomberg, on the other hand, succeeded Giuliani at a time when, to quote Kirtzman, “crime had plunged so low that that the FBI was calling New York the safest large city in America. Unemployment was down, and 400,000 fewer people were on the welfare rolls.”

Getting back to The New York Times, though it endorsed Giuliani for reelection in 1997 (he faced an uninspiring Democratic challenger and even Manhattan liberals found it hard not to give him his due), over the years the mouthpiece of New York liberalism generally treated him with varying degrees of skepticism, condescension and moral outrage.

Even as he left office in January 2002 on a note of unprecedented triumph and popularity, the tone of the paper’s editorials and most of its news coverage was startlingly jaundiced (a notable exception was an analysis piece by reporter Sam Roberts who mused that Giuliani would go down in history as a greater mayor than even La Guardia).

An editorial that appeared the Sunday before Giuliani’s departure was particularly churlish, claiming that “Even his staunchest supporters know that much of his success was due in part to good timing. His greatest achievements – the drop in crime, the reduction in welfare cases, the economic boom – were mirrored in other cities that had milder-mannered chief executives.”

Nonsense, responded historian Fred Siegel. “No other city has made comparable gains…. In the closing years of the Dinkins administration, tourists stayed away in droves, while businesses and residents were racing for the exits in what seemed like an evacuation. Had Mr. Dinkins been reelected, the flight from fear would have become a flood.”

As to the assertion that crime had dropped everywhere and Giuliani merely happened to have been in the right place at the right time, it just wasn’t true.

“None of these critics,” Siegel pointed out, “supplies specifics – with good reason. Crime didn’t fall everywhere, as anyone from Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit or a host of other big cities could have explained.”

Recalling Ed Koch’s Political Hypocrisy

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Now that the tributes to Ed Koch have abated, it behooves us to recall one of the less praiseworthy aspects of the former mayor’s character – his abject hypocrisy on race relations, particularly as they manifested themselves in his incessant criticism of Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani was elected in 1993 to restore order and sheer livability to a city left adrift by Koch and made all the worse by Koch’s hopelessly overmatched successor, David Dinkins. (It may be difficult to recall more than two decades later, but Koch’s stock had plummeted to such depths in1989 that he lost the Democratic primary that year to the ineffectual Dinkins by a solid margin.)

Like Koch before him, Giuliani faced fierce resistance to his policies from the city’s self-styled community activists and black leaders. Giuliani, however, was far more successful than Koch in turning back decades of liberal fiscal and welfare experimentation that nearly bankrupted the city, as well as liberal social and law enforcement policies that left citizens cowering in fear behind bolted doors.

Koch certainly was an improvement over his two immediate predecessors, the liberal Democrat Abe Beame and the even more liberal Republican John Lindsay, but when Koch assumed office in 1978 the city’s economic house was already on its way to being put in order thanks to the efforts of politicians like Governor Hugh Carey and bankers like Felix Rohatyn.

Koch’s outsize personality, and his very public repudiation of the liberal pieties he himself had so slavishly subscribed to for decades, made him a popular figure in the city for the first two of his three terms in office. But he never got a handle on a skyrocketing crime rate and the entrenched municipal corruption.

That Giuliani managed to tame a city long characterized by many as “ungovernable” had to have bothered a man with Koch’s healthy self-regard. In short order Giuliani was being hailed as the best mayor the city had seen since La Guardia – and Koch was aligning himself with some very strange political bedfellows, most notably the Rev. Al Sharpton. (The Village Voice trumpeted Koch as the man “who made Al Sharpton kosher.”)

Koch became a chronic – some would say compulsive – critic of Giuliani. His criticism grew so predictable and mindless that the very title of a collection of his newspaper columns on the mayor – “Giuliani, Nasty Man” – had about it the whiff of parody.

With his new pal Sharpton in tow, Koch took particular delight in skewering Giuliani over his handling of racial issues. Koch no doubt hoped New Yorkers would forget just what a racial tinderbox the city had been during his own mayoralty.

The Harlem pastor Calvin Butts, for example, had labeled Koch “an instigator of the climate of racial fear in this city,” while CUNY professor Marshall Berman charged that Koch “has been remarkably adept at polarizing blacks and Jews.”

Koch reached a nadir in his campaign against Giuliani in October 1995. The UN was marking its fiftieth anniversary and Yasir Arafat was being feted all around town as a man of peace. When Giuliani learned that Arafat had been invited to a Lincoln Center concert to be performed by the New York Philharmonic, he dispatched aides to tell Arafat and his entourage to make themselves disappear from the premises.

Koch wasted no time in holding a joint press conference with David Dinkins (of whom Koch had once written, “I thought the city would be destroyed if we had to live through a second Dinkins term”) to denounce Giuliani.

“Mayor Giuliani,” Koch told reporters, “has behavioral problems dealing with other people.”

Giuliani took the criticism in stride, telling a UJA-Federation fundraising breakfast shortly after the controversy that he was “proud of that decision. I’d make it again, and the day I’d stop making it is the day I’d resign as mayor…. When I write my memoirs, this is one of the things that I probably will be proudest of.”

On that day Giuliani showed himself to be the kind of fearless politician Ed Koch once took such pride in being.

Blackout

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
In Union Square the chess players sit alone under the statue of George Washington waiting for a game. A Latino family, father, mother and son, sit on the sidewalk holding cardboard signs and singing. “I’ll be your friend, when you’re not strong.”  The big chain stores are closed but the bodegas are open and Muslim and Chinese storekeepers charge up to ten dollars for a gallon of water. New York City in blackout, in short, is much like New York City as usual.
The electronics stores are closed and the wine stores are open. A chalk sign outside one darkened store reads, “Screw electricity.”  NYU students crowd the bus stops and French tourists elbow their way through the crowd on the way to a cheaply expensive hotel. A massive ancient tree lies torn out of the earth in the old 16thStreet park and residents crowd around sticking their iPhones through the 19thCentury ironwork of the shuttered park to get a photo. A photo of devastation.
Recording disaster has become instinct. I saw dozens of people taking photos on September 11 and the number would have increased by a factor of x10 If the modern smartphone with its 8 megapixel camera had been present in 2001. A click of a touchscreen and the photo is uploaded to Facebook to be shared around the world with people who like gawking at broken things.
The departure of the internet accompanies the return of drive time news radio and the shocking reminder of what the media is really like. On WINS a cheerful male anchor runs through the list of catastrophes. “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” he says about a flooded town, almost chuckling at the joke. “The town of Little Ferry sure lived up to its name,” he says of another.  The obscenities repeat themselves every 10 minutes intersecting with audio clips of survivors who only have a few seconds to mention the water or how much they lost before the whole things cut to a commercial.
With a million Con Edison customers out of power, the commercial is naturally for Con Edison, but it isn’t one of those, “We’re working as hard as we can” ads that utilities run while their customers curse them in the dark, instead it’s an ad touting Con Edison’s Diversity Supplier Program which distributes supplier contracts based on race, instead of competence. Even liberals would not have been reassured by the timing.
Chris Christie is everywhere, flying around in the helicopter and landing just long enough to survey the destruction. A few minutes later he is launching into an anecdote about jet skiers rescuing 80 year old ladies on jet skis. “All they wanted was a photo with me and then they were off,” he says, reminding the audience that while the governor is trying to be the Rudy Guiliani of this news cycle, he isn’t Rudy.
While shopping for supplies, Senator Schumer comes on the radio and in his best oily voice, informs beleaguered shoppers that he has gotten calls from Republicans and Democrats and assures us that this issue will not be politicized. Unlike Hurricane Katrina, an unseen heckler supplies in the rugs and mops aisle.
An hour of this is enough to remind me of how unprofessional professional news is and how much better Sean Hannity was at this during the last blackout through the simple expedient of jettisoning the formula and supplying helpful information. There is no helpful information on AM news anymore, with the brief exceptions of traffic and weather, just ghoulish exploitation of tragedy in the same cheerful voice that is then used to sell Carbonite, computer backup for only 59.99 a year.
The NYPD is doing what it does best, cutting off streets and telling people where to go. A pile of ordure in the morning acts as evidence that the mounted police were deployed at some point during the night. But the amount of actual crime appears negligible. One store window is lightly broken, more likely a result of the storm than casual vandalism. But being cut off from collective news sources also acts as a reminder of how news shapes perceptions.
Without a news report, I have no idea if the blackout and storm were accompanied by a massive crime wave or hardly any crime at all. As people did a century ago and as many still do, I can only judge larger events by my perceptions. The status of crime in New York City is determined entirely by the number of unbroken store windows that I pass among the darkened stores selling handbags, artisanal cookies and neck massages on my quest to find working internet. But the moment I pass along that perception, then I am once again creating news and the entire cycle of collective perception repeats itself again.
Past 40th Street on the East Side and 26th Street on the West Side, there is power and I recognize the phenomenon first through the sight of distant red traffic lights. “Do Not Walk,” they say, and I walk on. On the radio a politician talks about revisiting the unity of September 11, but that’s a cheerful story to sandwich between commercials for motor oil and a reality show about Texas bachelorettes.
On September 11, we briefly came to the awareness of a common enemy, but now we remain in our old divisions, those who have and those who have not, those who define themselves by race and those who do not, the woman screaming loudly about how Bush did not find any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq four years past the point when that kind of thing was fashionable and the young girl in duck boots saying, “Omigod,” over and over again into a cellphone until it becomes its own mantra.
We are on an island and we are islands. The prosperous smiling natives paying 10 dollars for a quart of sink water reprocessed in Michigan bottling plants and paying double to travel downtown in a taxi and the immigrants who take their money, but hardly ever smile. There are the gangs who plot looting sprees on Twitter and the Long Island cops who leave behind their families to drive around the streets telling them to go home. There are the people in flooded homes and the news anchors cheerfully asking them how it felt to lose everything they have.
The finance expert with a Lithuanian accent tells his broker over a shaky connection in an internet café to sell the dollar and a male model named Justice chats about San Francisco. They are all New York and they aren’t New York, because New York City is an idea and it can be hard to live inside an idea. New York is immigrant neighborhoods full of people who want to live just like they did back home while making more money and having access to free social services. New York is British brokers straight out of the City putting in their time before they go somewhere glamorous, like Dubai.
New York is the remnants of its working class, hiding out deep in Brooklyn or leaving city limits for Long Island or New Jersey. New York is the place that you see in movies which shoot on every block, tangling their cables like snakes around fire hydrants while their refreshment tables full of sliced avocados stretch on forever.
New York is the idea of the Everycity, the city that never stops because it is always busy doing things and being things. It is the idea that we can leave behind our roots and our histories to create a new glamorous history out of the fragments of everyone else trying to do the same thing at the same time. And when I look back, surrounded by the floor to sky video screens of Times Square as the darkness grows, all I see are the outlines of dark towers and the lights of the endless traffic of secretaries, brokers, cops and doctors, professors, porters, drug dealers, antiques appraisers, actors and drivers, prowling through the night.
Originally published at Sultan Knish.

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