A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First

Mr. Bloomberg was keen to take on the impossible, or at least the seemingly so. And he did. A man whose public personality came in a plain brown wrapper presided during an era of radical change and rebirth in the city, much of it fostered by his administration.

 

On March 15 of last year, at a moment when many New Yorkers found themselves increasingly disturbed by revelations that the Police Department had conducted constitutionally suspect surveillance of Muslim communities, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made an unplanned visit to the offices of Goldman Sachs.

 

The mood had grown sour among some of the city’s most amply compensated plutocrats. The day before, Greg Smith, an executive director in the company’s equity derivatives business, announced his resignation, in an Op-Ed page article in The New York Times, declaring that the previous decade had left Goldman’s culture so steeped in avarice and self-interest, so utterly disdainful of its clients, that he no longer found it morally tenable to work there.

 

It was not simply that he was such an obvious champion of the financial industry, but also that in the city he ran he could barely brook any dissent of it.

 

The siren song of large numbers led the city to multiply the number of people that the police stopped and frisked. He was not naturally inclined to soaring oratory, so on his rare forays, the eloquence was indelible. Practically alone among elected officials in the United States, Mr. Bloomberg spoke in 2010 for the right of a Muslim group to open a mosque a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks, citing the founding principles of the nation. As he stood on Governors Island, with the Statue of Liberty visible over his shoulder, Mr. Bloomberg said: “We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”

 

Last week, during a news conference in City Hall, the same mayor snarled at a judge for ruling that in searching the pockets of millions of young black and Latino men who had done nothing wrong, the police and the city had violated their constitutional rights. The moment lacked even a whisper of the grace that had made his voice so powerful on Governors Island.

 

But the Constitution protects the rights of individuals and does not recognize the laws of large numbers. It requires that the more invasive an action the authorities take against a person, the greater the cause must be.

 

Asked on Monday about a judge’s order that the police wear body cameras in five precincts for a year, to document precisely what was happening in the streets, Mr. Bloomberg seemed especially angry. A “nightmare,” he said. He insisted the test would fail: a police officer might turn his or her head and the camera would miss the action.

 

The judge said it would be an experiment, a pilot project for a year, but Mr. Bloomberg wasn’t having it. “It is a solution that is not a solution,” he declared.

Boston Marathon bombing suspects met 9/11 conspiracy theorist through mom’s health aide job

BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev befriended a brain-damaged anti-U.S. government conspiracy theorist through their mother’s health care aide job years before the deadly attack, a lawyer said Tuesday.

 

Attorney Jason Rosenberg, who represents the family of Donald Larking, said Larking shared publications with the brothers and discussed theories including that the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting didn’t happen or the U.S. government was behind them.

 

The attorney said the Tsarnaev family had a relationship with the Larkings that started years ago when the brothers’ mother began working as a personal care assistant for Larking’s wife, a quadriplegic since birth.

 

Rosenberg said Larking, who lives in West Newton, just west of Boston, was shot in the head in 1974 in an attempted robbery while working in a convenience store. He said Larking suffered brain damage that led to problems with his decision-making and judgment.

 

The lawyer’s account first emerged in a Wall Street Journal article, which included Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s former landlady talking about publications that had been in his Cambridge apartment.

Landlady Joanna Herlihy told The Associated Press she salvaged publications after authorities had searched the apartment and items were discarded. She confirmed that among them were an Alabama-based publication that uses a Confederate flag on its website and a weekly publication that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls anti-Semitic.

 

Rosenberg said Tuesday he doesn’t think Larking helped the Tsarnaev brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia, formulate ideas but may have made them believe others felt as they did.

 

“(They) were seeing someone who was Caucasian and was born in America who was saying the same things,” the attorney said.

The brothers took Larking to their mosque, and he converted to Islam and still attends the mosque, Rosenberg said.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Film Review

Its message might be flabby, but Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel is still a bold piece of global storytelling. Based on the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, this is an ambitious, heartfelt tale of divided loyalties in a world where complacent belief in the triumph of globalised capital was shattered by the Twin Towers attack. Ahmed is Changez, a firebrand Muslim professor in Pakistan, suspected by the CIA of anti-American jihadism. But Changez is to reveal that his ideological training camp was a Wall Street corporation: years before, as a bright immigrant to the US, he got an Ivy League scholarship and was fast-tracked into a high-flying Manhattan job, where he learned to be internationally strategic and ruthless. But 9/11 changes him, and as people of his skin colour and background come to be reviled in New York, Changez reconsiders his loyalties and life choices.

‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ movie review

There’s a double meaning to the title of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” filmmaker Mira Nair’s great, gripping and complex drama based on the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid about the roots of extremism.

On a superficial level, “fundamentalist” refers to religious identity, one unfortunately most often associated with Islamic terrorism these days. And the story — about an ambitious, Pakistani-born Wall Street financial analyst who becomes disenchanted with the United States after 9/11 — certainly suggests that most obvious reading. In that interpretation, the reluctant fundamentalist is an assimilated Muslim forced into anti-American radicalism by America itself.

But the hero Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed), whom we meet at the outset as an older and wiser professor of revolutionary studies at Lahore University, isn’t quite what he appears. The other meaning of “fundamentalist” refers to Changez’s prior life in the states, where, as a young man, he was paid big bucks to fix broken companies, coolly evaluating — and, if necessary, streamlining — a business’s “fundamentals.” That means he was often in the position of having to fire people, a job that might inspire reluctance in anyone with a heart. (The name Changez Khan is a variant of Genghis Khan.)

New details emerge of anti-Islam film’s mystery producer

The spotlight in the search for the creators of an incendiary video mocking Islam that set off a wave of anti-American violence in the Middle East shifted Thursday to a shadowy gas station owner with a record of criminal arrests and bankruptcy, who associates said expressed anti-Muslim sentiments as he pushed for the making of the film.

 

CNN initially reported that the man behind the “Innocence of Muslims” movie is likely not an “Israeli real estate developer” by the name of Sam Bacile, but instead as some speculated an Egyptian Copt by the name Abenob Nakoula Bassely.  There are still doubts about who Bacile actually is and as Israel has no knowledge of a citizen by the name of Sam Bacile.

At the heart of the mystery was the filmmaker himself, a man identified in the casting call as Sam Bassiel, on the call sheet as Sam Bassil and reported at first by news outlets as Sam Bacile.

But federal officials consider that man to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was convicted in 2009 of bank fraud.

 

In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker characterized his movie, now called “Innocence of Muslims,” as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.”

“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement.

 

The filmmaker told the Wall Street Journal Jewish donors contributed $5 million to make the film. Based on the trailer, however, the amateurish movie appears to have been produced on a low budget.

Anti-Muslim activist Steve Klein, who said he was a script consultant for the movie, said the filmmaker told him his idea was to make a film that would reveal “facts, evidence and proof” about the Prophet Mohammed to people he perceived as radical Muslims.

Klein said the movie was called “Innocence of Bin Laden.”

Klein is known in Southern California for his vocal opposition to the construction of a mosque in Temecula, southeast of Los Angeles, in 2010. He heads up Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, a group that contends Islam is a threat to American freedom.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones to ask him to withdraw his support for the film, said Col. David Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman.

Leaders of the Coptic Church in the United States, after a fringe figure claiming to be a Coptic leader was linked Wednesday to promoting the film, forcefully denounced the video and denied any connection to the activists who promoted the trailer. They said they learned of the film only with news of the protests.

Muslims on Wall Street, Bridging Two Traditions

Young Muslims, one of the newest groups to make inroads in American finance, can face steep barriers to entry. Some obstacles are remnants of a less tolerant era. But prominent, too, are the limitations of Islam itself — a faith whose tenets, Muslim workers say, often seem at odds with Wall Street’s sometimes bacchanalian culture.

 

NAIEL IQBAL’S co-workers couldn’t figure him out.   He’d just started at a Midtown Manhattan hedge fund — the kind of elite enclave where overachievers in button-downs go to make a few hundred grand before heading off to Harvard Business School. But Mr. Iqbal, 27, a graduate of the Wharton School, wasn’t acting like a typical finance guy. He didn’t introduce himself around the office. Nor did he grab lunch with the other traders.

In fact, he didn’t eat at all. Or drink. Not coffee, not soda, not even a sip of water from a Nalgene bottle on his desk. All day, he just sat there, staring into his Bloomberg terminal. Was he sick? Nervous? A modern Bartleby?

None of the above: It was Ramadan, and Mr. Iqbal, a Muslim, was exhausted from fasting daily till sundown.

Mr. Iqbal — who doesn’t drink or smoke — is among a growing number of young Muslims who are disrupting Wall Street’s old-boy culture. Seen from a certain angle, the Street can still look like a monolith — a cohort of white males with Ivy League degrees and Roman numerals attached to their names. (This is especially true the higher you look; there are, for example, no black, female or openly gay chief executives at the nation’s largest banks.)

But as the Street adapts to greater regulation, lower profits and tighter costs, it is also experiencing change within its ranks. Among entry-level financiers, especially, a years-long recruiting effort at major banks has resulted in a diverse group of aspiring Masters of the Universe.

A Balancing Act for the Police Department

In the binary system offered by Machiavelli — “it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both” — the New York Police Department loses on either count.

The police in a big city can’t expect to be truly loved; it’s not part of the job description. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that the fondest wish of the department brass is to be feared. What, then, would distinguish them from an occupying force?

But there is a third possibility not covered by the Machiavellian construct. It is a middle path, arguably the sanest choice of all: to be respected. That’s where the department has been struggling of late, on several fronts.

Its surveillance of Muslims as part of its counterterrorism strategy has led to a concerted pushback from Islamic groups. The huge numbers of New Yorkers affected by its stop-and-frisk policy, principally young African-Americans and Latinos, have produced cries of racism and legislative attempts to limit the practice. Its battles with Occupy Wall Street have generated criticism that it fails to respect the rights of those engaged in lawful dissent.

3 Dem senators seek inspector general for NYPD, follows Occupy crackdown, Muslim surveillance

ALBANY, N.Y. — Three Democratic New York state senators want an independent inspector to oversee the New York Police Department after what they called several abuses, including reports of widespread surveillance of Muslims and the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters.

The bill follows stories by The Associated Press that detailed monitoring of Muslims, a tactic decried by some as religious profiling. The bill targets “stop-and-frisk, the treatment of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and the wholesale surveillance of the Muslim community in New York City and other jurisdictions.”

The measure from Sens. Kevin Parker, Eric Adams and Bill Perkins of New York City who are frequent critics of police dealings with minorities has little chance of passage, however. The Senate bill lacks essential support by the Republican majority, which is close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It also needs a request from city officials.

Bloomberg opposes the bill and said the city won’t turn over the police department to an outside group. He and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have defended the department’s tactics and say police follow only legitimate leads and don’t monitor ethnic neighborhoods. A May 2006 police report addressed to Kelly, however, recommended increased spying at mosques and an assessment of the region’s Palestinian community to look for potential terrorists.
“No one is above the law, not even law enforcement,” Parker said. “This legislation seeks to restore the public trust and honor the heroism and service of thousands of officers.”

In a series of investigative reports since August, the AP has revealed that, with the CIA’s help, the NYPD developed spying programs that monitored every aspect of Muslim life and built databases on where innocent Muslims eat, shop, work and pray. Plainclothes officers monitored conversations in Muslim neighborhoods and wrote daily reports about what they heard.

Occupy Wall Street Meets Tahrir Square

At the risk of being obvious, let us list the ways that Occupy Wall Street is not like Tahrir Square: no protesters have been killed, there have been no demands for the president to step down and no crowds swelling above six figures. The protesters are in far less danger, and seem to pose far less danger to the powerful, than in Egypt.

BUT it’s worth pausing for a moment on this point: Here in Lower Manhattan, and around the country, protesters have embraced a movement springing from the Arab world as a model of freedom, democracy and nonviolence.

“Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” an initial call to action demanded. Now, newcomers to Zuccotti Park are given leaflets explicitly connecting the movements: “We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring occupation tactics to achieve our ends and we encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

Two blocks from ground zero — the same distance, though in a different direction, as the proposed Muslim community center and mosque that raised a ruckus last year — a subtle change in the Arab world’s image, wrought by the events of recent months, is on display.
In a place so sensitized, the big news, perhaps, is that the Tahrir references are taken almost for granted. A movement born in a Muslim country is seen neither as threatening nor as exotic but simply as universal.

“I think Tahrir is an Arabic word, but that doesn’t make it a particularly Arab or Muslim thing,” said Daniel Kurfirst, a musician, after Muslims held Friday prayers in the park for the first time last week.
Progressive Muslim activists, many of them born in New York, have been coming to the park from the beginning. They said they hoped the prayers, organized by the Muslim Leadership Council of New York, would get more Muslims interested in the movement.

But they face ambivalence from their parents’ generation, from immigrants like Mr. Sami, the falafel chef.
It’s good to see Americans recognize that poverty is a problem, he said. But while Tahrir could be summed up in a few words — “Mubarak, leave!” — he found Occupy’s diffuse causes “confusing.” His coworker, who did not want to give his name, said the protesters were “not serious.”