Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Christmas Verdict

Crime does not pay ... as well as politics.
-- Alfred E. Newman

For those of you who were holding your breath waiting for the results of the “Quogue matter” involving the S.E.C. claim and indictment involving Mayor Motz – half of the dynamic duo running the Village (his wife Kitrick is the Village judge) – you’ll be happy to know that the back door is still open in the Hamptons, even on the Federal level.
Apparently, as a few learned attorneys have commented, the Christmas Verdict refers to a little known ploy that allows a defendant to go to trial when juries are least likely to convict and most likely to want to NOT be locked in a controversy. The case went to trial on the 19th.
It seems that Motz, or his connected Republican buddies in the Town and Village still know a few important politicians and sympathizers among those who prosecute these matters. Too bad Gonzalez isn’t still running the AG deals. The investment firm will now be convicted (no individuals) and Motz is likely to avoid any untidy outcomes. Money is not the issue, as recompense has been arranged – after the fact, of course. Only jail time was of a concern. Ticket switching is only a crime when Democrats or defendants without Republican connections are involved. There are lots of them in the Hamptons.

Looks like Quogue residents may continue to get what they deserve in Village government.

Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Dose of Reality

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
-- George Bernard Shaw

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
-- Aesop

As the Hamptons economy burns, the Southampton Town Board fiddles, the real estate industry implodes, Suffolk County D.A., Tom Spota arrests people. It’s not bad enough that Henry Paulson is saving his buddies at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley -- by dishing out billions from under the TARP to cover them for the losses that they created by handing out mortgages to anyone breathing – now Spota’s Economic Crimes unit is busy trying to criminalize the people who accepted the largesse. The bogus paper known facetiously as CDO’s and SVI’s -- debts that were bundled into securities by thirty year olds pulling down $5 million dollar a year bonuses at Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns. One thirty year old from Merrill Lynch recently commented that he left the company with $20 million in cash and his only heartburn comes from trying to figure out how not to pay taxes on it.
You think he has a mortgage to worry about?

So Spota, seeing an opportunity to show what a tough guy and a great politician he is, along with his envious Detectives on a paycheck and all they can arrange under the table who try to “make” cases by threatening people -- went into action against the poor schmucks that Wall Street people targeted. Mortgage holders and real estate owners have always been the preferred targets of police. They try to pay their bills and they are law-abiding middle class citizens and investors – who in this case were conned into being part of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history – not Madoff’s – but the securitized mortgages scheme by Wall Street that generated billions in fees to everyone in on the scam even before the ink was dry on the bonds and notes. The middle-class homeowners who took the loans and bought the property that greased the economy are easy to intimidate and convictions are a snap. There is zero risk for cops. No drug dealers or hold-up threats here.
There was no way that the escalation of financing by Wall Street forced upon a greedy society (like the Town of Southampton where the party is now over) which pushed banks, mortgage brokers and real estate agents to push loans -- ever expected, or cared, whether the bill would ever be paid. That was never part of the equation. That never mattered to the kids pulling down $5, 10, or $20 mil per year. There were so many tricks in the fine print that Wall Street’s yuppies and CEO’s knew to take their fees first and move on before the shit hit the fan. That was part of the plan and when they finally acknowledged the Ponzi scheme that THEY had created, they were out the door and long gone. Of course, Paulson then had to bail them all out.

What is happening now in Suffolk County is the age old 90% -plus conviction rate game – the D.A.’s ploy to hold on to his job – boasting high conviction rates by picking on people who do not have the resources to defend themselves against bogus criminal charges. They know better than to go after the Bear Sterns executives because any laws actually broken (if there were any) were beyond the D.A.’s ability to prosecute. Better to go after middle class people who were the real victims in all of this – by virtue of Wall Street’s greed, mortgage broker’s greed and the greed of Towns and Villages with bloated economies and police forces pulling down a few hundred thousand a year.
Even local corruption, like the Masterson Southampton Town Highway department con game of collecting cash from pavers for contracts for the Republican Party, is ignored. That’s a political accommodation. Then, there are the local law firms (with partners in Town government) who have been illegally steering business to themselves and off-budgeting any hard legal work to outside legal firms at $500 per hour, while getting a kickback. That too, is ignored by the D.A.

Spota is a Republican despite the Democratic moniker. And, the D.A. recently cut a deal for himself after it became clear that his continued prosecution of Marty Tankleff (who was railroaded into prison for 17 years by one of Spota’s clients, a dirty cop) was a tad too over the top. He subsequently appointed a Special Prosecutor so he could go out the back door, who, low and behold, dropped the entire matter against Tankleff. Showmanship is part of law enforcement and the media is “malleable” in Suffolk. Aside from Tankleff’s release, some really positive results arose from the birth of such organizations such as the Fortress Innocence Project – a world class investigations agency that assists wrongly imprisoned individuals.
Jay Salpeter, who worked hard to help Tankleff,
is among its highly qualified staff.

In truth, Spota is better than Catterson, a D.A. who was a retaliative dimwit that practically ran a bag man operation out of his Suffolk County bar -- and who routinely got drunk with another recently departed bully, Dave Wilmot, the publisher of a now defunct comic book known as Suffolk Life. “News” was routinely leaked to Suffolk Life by the likes of Town Attorney Joe Lombardo when a character assassination job was needed on any targets who actually believed in the Constitution. Lombardo, known as a legal errand-boy for Heaney and the Republicans was given the job of executing Southampton Town’s anti-Latino racial bias and its concomitant landlord policy directed against New Yorkers -- and has been sued in Federal Court in part for his complicity.
Town Attorneys Joe Lombardo and Michael Sendlenski both operate a plea bargain program for the Town, ostensibly directed at code violations, in order to bring in fines while intimidating New Yorkers – who pay for the entire economy. While Town officials and friends of the police never see a visit from the Code Enforcement clowns, anyone who criticizes the Justice Court, Town Attorneys or Police are regular targets. Unfortunately, due to this corrupt system, many people have been forced to give up their property rights while a rumored “payoffs for constitutional rights” operation continues. Investigators have uncovered widespread abuse of the legal system where nearly 90% of the housing in the Town is substandard or below State codes yet, is ignored or tolerated. Code Enforcement is only used for targeting, not safety.

All of this is essential to the Southampton Town Attorney’s office operation which has followed Skip Heaney’s announced agenda against New Yorkers -- of prosecuting landlords and the taking of their property if they rent to people who are on their racist hit list (illegal immigrants, blacks, or Latinos). While there is often no illegality found as a result of the expensive searches, seizures, fines and plea deals -- coping with the cost for justice in a prosecutorial environment can be daunting, if not impossible. Silencing objectors, of course, is the point.

As Sol Wachtler once said, most prosecutors can get a Grand Jury to indict “a ham sandwich.”

Justice is ephemeral and in Suffolk County it’s based upon who you know, not whether you did anything wrong. A.D.A’s and Detectives in Suffolk County routinely threaten people on and off the job because they know that they can ruin a person’s life with any criminal charge that causes large legal fees and fear, despite their dubious legitimacy. And, as criminal attorneys will attest: those who lie the most on the witness stand with impunity -- are police and prosecutors. Many judges are blind to the game – until you get into Federal Court.
Recently, for example, scores of people were arrested for having unwittingly forgotten to advise the tax collector in Suffolk County that they are no longer qualified for STAR exemptions – and were arrested by the D.A.s office for something that is simply not a crime. It is a completely civil matter. There is no criminal penalty for the oversight – even if it was intentional. Old ladies, black people, working mothers and laborers were dragged in to court by Suffolk County D.A. Detectives. Everyone pleaded guilty, of course. They did not have the money or legal counsel to withstand the pressure. But, every aspect of it smells of intimidation.
Of course, you tell that to the high school grads at your door with badges and guns drawn. You don’t pick a fight with someone holding all of the cards. And, there’s the rub. Justice is expensive and risky. Suffolk County juries are not known for their legal knowledge. They are hand-picked by corrupt A.D.A’s looking for a raise or notoriety.
In Manhattan, the D.A. goes after criminals. Bob Morgenthau may not be a saint, but he’s alert, awake, and has a real sense of justice – in spite of his age and long experience. His top prosecutor, Dan Kastleman is as tough as they come, but does not prosecute people as a political favor to informers, police, or politicians. Not so in Suffolk County.

Police routinely move from on duty, to home security company, to informer. They may not have any balls left but they still have the urge to be relevant and feign importance – even when they step over the line. Until they are caught.

The Hamptons are known for its Police State mentality and the concept of retaliation for not going along with the program is acknowledged widely – so that the Town Attorneys, current and former Police officers, current and retired Supervisors or Town officials, Code Enforcement personnel – all have a vested interest in being informers and inciters to augment the Republicans -- the symbols of which are described by Seth MacFarlane as "an elephant, and a big fat white guy who is threatened by change."
Recently, in fact, where no criminal actions existed, in an environment of retaliation, D.A. detectives have been hiring out their services and doing personal favors both on and off duty -- to feed this illegal operation of acting to further personal vendettas using their badges. They know that this is an effective way to conduct what the NKVD perpetrated in the Soviet Union during the 1930's. It was called "The Terror." Rather than support of their efforts in the service of Justice, honesty and diligence, the D.A. and his Detectives would prefer to be feared rather than respected by the public. That was true of Stalin and Machievelli as well.

As the economy sinks further into the muck and mire – verging on a full-blown Depression by the year 2011– more illegality will be uncovered. But, it won’t be due to people like the couple in East Quogue who were accused of supplying incorrect information in order to obtain a mortgage -- It will be due to Hedge Funds who won’t (or cannot) return money to investors, financial institutions who cooked up securitized debt obligations and who knowingly sold off trillions of dollars of phony securitized mortgages to make commissions and signaled to everyone in the real estate market that they needed more and more product to feed their insatiable need for commissions, salaries and bonuses. The mortgage banks like American Home or American Brokers Conduit, as in the case of the East Quogue matter, were encouraged to package loans however they could so the loans could be passed off. So, where are the Wall Street boys in this so-called investigation? Oops, probably couldn’t get them to lie down on that end of the “investigation.”

Counties, Towns, Villages and even States may be headed for bankruptcy.

And, this is a ship of state that few realize is in much deeper trouble than anyone yet realizes. With the probability that another 4 million will be unemployed this coming year; with the probability that the foreclosure numbers will INCREASE over the next two years; and, with the reality that this economic pain is a worldwide reality for several years going forward – expect the Justice system to founder and collapse along with the Bankruptcy system, as it seeks answers while attempting to punish innocent victims in its bewilderment.

What we have to do is take the power away from the abusers in our society.
In the Town of Southampton, we must succeed in obtaining the right to vote so that Justice is a reality.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Big L – Gloom and Doom Part 3

Here's what Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letters) -- one of the few market commentators with first-hand experience of the Great Depression -- has to say:

“The market is warning of a coming depression. Next year there’ll be a huge problem of unemployment, job openings will have disappeared, and every business will be going over its personal thinking in terms of who the business can do without.

“The sentiment in the country will be dark grey to jet black. Fortunes will have been wiped out. Thousands of savings plans and 401Ks will have been shattered. Americans who have never experienced true hard times will be living hard times. Confusion and fear will be rampant. How do I know all this? I’ve been here before, I know the signs.”

By now, even those among us that think economists are people who know what they’re talking about, realize this: that the genie is now out of the bottle. Few believe that the government has a handle on where this ship of state is headed, financially. Despite Wall Street and its current health, next year and quite possibly the year after, 2009 and 2010, will almost certainly be a disaster. Even if a traditional-style recovery on Wall Street were to start happening now, there is no imaginative vehicle, like CDO’s or SIV’s, that will be the “next big thing” to bail out this economy. Wall Street may recover slowly from here, but it is more likely that any rally that occurs will be a Bear Rally, to be followed by pain -- a lot more pain.

What lies ahead is not a V or a U – traditional symbols of a bounce in Wall Street that signals we are recovering. The big L is now what is predicted if we are lucky enough to avoid the big D.
This describes a long, long, slide down – followed by a very long period of flat or low economic activity accompanied by deflation. It is clearly NOT a period of recovery – it is a period of economic stagnation. Few new jobs, little housing activity and disasterous, permanent downsizing. Only afterwards, assuming that rational economic policy – worldwide – is put into place, can there be any growth.
If you doubt this, contemplate the fact that Japan was in the dumpster for 17 years before it began to recover. Contemplate the fact that real economic activity after 1929 did not occur until World War II – and that any stock purchased in 1929, which was followed by SEVEN major drops before it ended in 1932, did not regain its value until 1954.

We are now still on the slide. Housing has another year or two before it hits bottom. Many houses in the Hamptons have already dropped by 50% in value and Manhattan condos and coops are just now beginning to fall in value. Many of the sales figures that real estate companies provide are hype. Few brokers will tell the truth that activity has fallen by 30-35% and that prices are buoyed only be the averages artificially skewed by a few extremely upscale new developments which are as close to speculating in tulips, as one can imagine.
Price drops are now common. They will soon be the norm.
With 50,000 Citigroup pink slips, 10% of JPMorgan Chase employees being dropped and the combined redundancies at the Merrill/Bank of America merger, the Lehman fiasco and the disappearance of WAMU, not to mention the bank failures across the country – credit, capital and investment is fast disappearing. The recovery figures in housing are based upon limited sales – foreclosures and short sales. By the end of this year and next, several million more people will be out of work and the foreclosures may INCREASE rather than decrease as a result.
There are convincing arguments that we are, in fact, no matter what anyone does, headed into a Depression by 2011. This is based upon the cumulative begging, borrowing and stealing now going on by the Federal government – which uses printed money to solve an essential problem with our economic model. And, that is, there is a limit on how long you can pay your bills and the interest on your bills by borrowing yet more money. That process, created by massive leveraging, does end somewhere. And, since we are still leveraging our way out of this mess by printing more money, issuing more Treasury Bills, and bailing out more inefficient businesses, the end will not be pretty.

What is to be learned from this?
Nothing. This is our future.
Everyone needs to understand where we all going.
To know is to be forewarned.

Buying gold is a hedge but until grocery stores start accepting gold coins for bread, the only transactions that can be had are with Steve, the coin dealer. It is neither realistic nor practical to hoard gold. And, don’t forget, those who bought gold at $950 an ounce a few months ago, have lost $200 on that investment already.
Reducing expenses, downsizing your business, limiting unnecessary purchases and increasing your productivity are among the few things you can do personally. If you MUST attend a political fundraiser, be damned sure that he or she represents your needs and will give you real promises.

What may be helpful in knowing what is about to happen, assuming that GM, Ford and Chrysler do get a bailout or bridge-to-nowhere loans (since non are viable business models), is that voters need to keep a sharp eye on the politicians.
Forget Bush and forget Paulson – the Goldman Sachs CEO who bailed out his buddies on Wall Street first -- and then scrapped plans to buy the toxic debt which he used to convince Congress to give him the money. Paulson had resigned effective January even before he got the green light from Congress, so he’s already accomplished what he needed for his friends.

But, local politicians need to be watched like a hawk.

In the Hamptons, where a bankruptcy in the Town of Southampton is not unlikely, more local residents need to understand that the Republicans have been running things for decades. They are used to living off of the fat in the real estate game – by taking the property taxes and the transfer taxes intended for the Community Preservation Fund to run the government. Fred Thiele, former Town of Southampton Supervisor, buddy of Democratic County Chairman Rich Schaeffer and friend of racist County Executive Steve Levy – created the Preservation Fund to buy vacant land not to be developed. That fund has now been raided by Supervisors in East Hampton and Southampton in order to pay salaries and other expenses. In other words, instead of the painful decisions, they have dipped into that money improperly, if not illegally.

What does this tell you? It tells all of us that the source of funds to run the government – the money used to abuse New Yorkers, landlords, non-resident taxpaying property owners – has dried up. The entire local economy in the Hamptons is in deep, deep trouble. And still, like before, they exclude the ONLY source of money in their planning or government. Calls for a Hamptons Advocate fell on deaf ears in the past. That is unlikely to change with another administration of Republicans who only want power.
With wins by Obama, Pope and Schiavoni, the economy as well as the political landscape may change without their cooperation.

In Manhattan, there is more subtlety. But, change in Manhattan will come in the form of alternative political structures. The fact that Democrats control the agenda in a liberal or progressive city, may be challenged. As the economy tanks in Manhattan, politicians may find that they do not have guarantee of a sinecure in office.
Fundraising will change. The money will not be there.

As the budget decreases, as tax revenues dry up, and the City and private workforce decreases – and as deflation takes hold, politicians will have to work harder to retain the trust of voters. The Obama win will comfort many but change is the message – not status quo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Politics and The Mundane Media

Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.
-- Unknown

There used to be a point in criticizing the media in the Hamptons.
There was the drunk who was rumored to have abortions in his own family pontificating to the general public about his support of “Right to Life” candidates, like virtually all local Republicans. Fortunately, Suffolk Life went the way of his abusive “whiskey ideology” which crucified any and all free speech that his politician friends wanted targeted. Wilmot was a guy whose best characteristics were his Stalinist methods at the “news.”
He and his reporters routinely serviced Republicans in the County, Town of Southampton and Villages like Westhampton Beach when they needed to even the score with anyone who disagreed with them. He and his publication were an extension of the police state.

Further down the food chain is the Southampton Press, whose advertising base is supported by the Republican Party as well. Having sucked off the ruling party elite for decades, news reports of DWI’s that went missing from police reports and evaporated from the “Police Blotter” that exposes anyone and everyone whom they want to embarrass – they too, have begun to read the tea leaves. No longer are the glowing reports of “Skip Heaney's” bouts with the Town Board such important press. But, the sycophantic need to report trivia and utter failure to check facts in their articles remains.

Currently the Press is pandering to the Village of Westhampton Beach’s Mayor Conrad Teller, a former cop who is scorned for his anti-business attitude, irresponsible handling of Village crime, and inability to govern without a gun. The Village Board and every appointment in this anti-Semitic and racist government grasps at straws in its attempt to silence opposition and free speech. Business it merely tolerated and no help is on the way.
So, who to call?
Well, the Southampton Press, of course.
When the glowing reports of the latest fundraising maneuver, like Highway Superintendent Bill Masterson who is one of the bagmen for the Republicans – by virtue of cash for highway contracts -- are losing interest – what to do?
Enter Conrad Teller.

Recently, finding that a critical point of view of the Democrats is dicey after Dan Russo was canned, a favorite of the Republicans, it seemed a better ploy was to fish around for less problematical stories. What better than do some favors for the Master of Disinformation in Westhampton Beach, Conrad Teller. Actually, Bugs Bunny would be better at hiding the fact that he is not only anti-Semitic but also anti-Latino and anti-business. He never saw nightlife that he didn’t like. Of course, when you fall asleep at Village meetings, there’s hardly a conflict.

So, Teller, who leaks policy through his appointees, like Barbara Ramsay of the Planning Committee (a local anti-Latino with direct control of the police) and Paul Houlihan of the Building Department, as well as Bridget Napoli, the NKVD-styled Code Enforcer who takes orders from the “insiders.” (Ramsay and Houlihan among them) -- and then denies or disagrees with these positions – manipulates the Press coverage of his dictatorship. Of course, only a newspaper, which is seeking to fulfill its mission as the Republican Party organ, would follow that ploy.

Tellers most recent manipulations have been the Eruv, which pits local residents against Marc Schneier of the Hamptons Synagogue and Jews – whereby he supports a fictitious separation of church and state movement (about black plastic on telephone poles), while voting for the issue in order to attempt to confuse his opponents. No one buys it.

The Southampton Press, of course, primes its reporters to follow the phony independent reporting mantra. The slant of stories is careful not to give away the farm. But, what they cannot control is the planned intent of their writing – which comes through by is massive ignorance of facts as well as its complete lack of fact checking. That was one of Wilmot’s major tools.
So, now that Teller and his racist-anti-Semitic bureaucracy have pulled some strings, a few “news” stories have started to focus on Westhampton Beach.
There is the major piece about “Silly String” which Teller planted for a friend in the Chamber of Commerce to create problems for a local business owner – and there is the Sunset Café story, which gained traction because it has the only Spanish Night in the area.
Barbara Ramsay and her husband, who live in the back rooms of two businesses on Sunset Avenue –a bureaucrat and insider in the Village –, managed to kill the application of the Sunset Café for outdoor music. The Village Attorney played along with the charade and, of course, no proof was necessary. No written complaints were ever produced. Only the words of the Secret Police. One local resident describes Ramsay is “tense.” Another way of saying that is “wrapped too tight.”
Of course, the no music, no nightlife, no fun – and certainly no Jews or Latinos – thrust of Teller and all of his bureaucrats – which is against public policy and racist – is also phony. Predictably, Teller followed up what he must have considered a devious press ploy – to kill the rest of the nightlife in his little Village. What better than to use this carefully crafted news story cooked up by Teller and Ramsay, of complaints about loud music one night a week INSIDE of the building 100 feet away from their back bedroom at 11 pm? In normal circumstances – if you don’t control the police – you knock on the door and ask people to turn down the volume.

Of course, that does not stop the Southampton Press. Because, it is the mission of the Southampton Press to interfere with any social trends that do not serve the Republican Party. In this case, no interviews were sought that would completely counter the news impression fostered by the Village.
While only Suffolk Life would give interviews to people like Joe Lombardo (Southampton Town Attorney), who trashed people that he was prosecuting -- the Southampton Press panders to Republican Party Chairman Marcus Stinchi (who lives and works in Westhampton Beach) in the guise of reporting news. And, Stinchi, of course, was acting on orders to create a problem for those who have sued the Town of Southampton for the same racism that works for Teller and Ramsay.

Don’t buy the media ploy.

And, don’t buy the one-sided news stories reported in the Press.
Silly String is a fun toy and the Sunset Café makes great coffee. Their Obama party was a success. And, it serves everyone, even Village bureaucrats. The fact that the owners of many year round businesses serve the Village at a loss most of the year, providing employment and life to the community – is never part of the news story.
Debates and healthy Free press are what made America great. More of it is on the way.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hamptons Election Notes

The great masses of the people... will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one.
--Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

What most people don’t realize about the Hamptons is that it was one of the few locations that voted for Herbert Hoover. Residents of Villages and Towns were upset over what they percieved as Democrats who are infiltrating the Republican bastions. There has been much Republican hand-wringing over the incursion made by what they perceived as candidates riding Obama’s coattails to victory. The fact that Obama signs were being stolen or destroyed apparently didn’t help to change the election. A Democrat, Sally Pope, ran for Town Board in Southampton Town and edged out a hand-picked Republican incumbent. Linda Kabot selected Dan Russo, on the instructions of the Republican Party after a real Primary, which ejected Skip Heaney as Supervisor last year. And, Andrea Schiavoni forced out Tom DeMayo in the Justice Court. His penchant for signing stacks of search warrants for the Town Attorneys and the Code Enforcement police will not be missed by many civil libertarians.

above photo of Sally Pope (Town Board winner) & Dan Russo

Although Anna Throne-Holst is a Democrat, holding hands with Russo was more than a romantic problem. The supposed changes after Throne-Holst became the lone Democrat on the Town Board amounted to more than misinformed press pieces given to that stellar media source And, Throne-Holst's misguided attempt at a “Green Law” was just another sub rosa route for the Code Enforcement Police to get into your bedroom ostensibly to check for illegal immigrants. Russo, of course, simply lied to reporters of the mislabeled entities known as "news" organizations on many occasions and both and the Southampton Press currently are scrambling to appear a little less right of center these days. Reporters like part-time real estate agent Andrea Aurichio must be looking for better sources after sychophantically writing what some of the Republicans handed out as facts -- which fact-checking normally would have identified as pure fantasy. Of course, most of what the Town Board, Town Attorney's Office and Code Enforcement do is actually geared towards investigating people rather than correcting problems. If that were not the case, there would be a system in place to notify owners of problems needing to be corrected. And, laws would be discussed with property owners, like New Yorkers -- who cannot vote in local elections -- yet.

Contrary to popular belief, having a search warrant issued by the Justice Court and breaking into property at 5 a.m. to check for smoke detectors is more reminiscent of the NKVD in the Soviet Union than a building inspection ordered to protect people. But, under the rules initiated by former Supervisor Skip Heaney and carried out by Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft – the overlord of Code Enforcement – this is how Latinos, Blacks, New Yorkers and political enemies are targeted in the Town. Tom DeMayo played a big part in helping those particular wheels receive enough grease.

Thus it is useful to understand that the Razzle Dazzle was a card game made famous in Cuba when Fidel was still in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and Fulgencio Batista was still hobnobbing with Santo Trafficante and Meyer Lansky in Havana. It is a game that counts on suckers who believe that they are facing a dealer with a full deck and ever-increasing chances of winning. It’s a lot like the game played on the voters facing Republican ideology in the Hamptons. It’s rarely overtly racist or anti-Semitic – but the ante is constantly being raised when things don’t go according to plan.
The real name of the game in places like Southampton Town, Southampton Village and Westhampton Beach Village is corruption. This corruption, under the guise of a Republican ideological agenda and its sympathizers who ostensibly want to protect residents – is a form of political corruption that is anti-New Yorker, anti-landlord, anti-Black, anti-Latino, and anti-Semitic.
It also is the big threat of political targeting for those who don’t fall in line and buy the Big Lie. The police and prosecutors, the Town Attorneys, the Village Attorneys, the Suffolk County D.A. -- are the enforcers. It’s the political Razzle-Dazzle with teeth. And, in this last Town election, many people were watching what the Obama-effect would be after many years of trying to make voters believe that the anti-immigration policies that brought us the Code Enforcement “Terror” was just. These early dawn raids on immigrant women and children under the guise of searching for missing smoke detectors, replete with warrants and guns drawn, were reminiscent of the 1930's Stalinism during which even Americans were "disappeared." That we were to believe these raids were really instituted by politicians trying to protect visiting workers from faulty smoke detectors – and, that the objections to the Eruv in Westhampton Beach Village is really a “separation of Church and State issue” -- belies the corruption of these governments. None of us are stupid as they believe we are.

Donald Kauth, the head Code Enforcement cop, along with Southampton Town Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft and Town Attorney Joe Lombardo were recently in court over one of these early morning anti-Latino raids. It was clear that they had been instructed to find a phony basis for their illegal and unconstitutional acts. The chain of command is Skip Heaney, the Republican Party, Linda Kabot, Dan Russo, Chris Nuzzi, Cheryl Kraft, Kauth and all of the boys and girls who blindly and obediently break the law to target opponents, Latinos, Jews, New Yorkers and the Democrats. Only now, with a Democrat in the White House and control of Albany, it’s not the Suffolk County D.A. but the U.S. Attorney’s Office that may have an interest in their activities.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hamptons Crime Wave Redux

As repressed sadists are supposed to become policemen or butchers so those with irrational fear of life become publishers.
--Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)

At the risk of seeming repetitive, Westhampton Beach Village was hit with another break-in at a local business October 30th. Wearing hoods, the perpetrators climbed up on the roof of a building on Main Street after casing Magic’s Pub for roughly 45 minutes. Apparently, no police patrols saw anything wrong going on as the break in crew climbed through a second floor window. Only the security system alerted management.
A few thousand dollars worth of building damage makes this "thwarted" break-in more than just a little inconvenient.

Comments about the last robbery, during which armed robbers held up the Post Stop Café and confronted the owner just down the block, were criticized as “intellectually dishonest” by a local blogger. Apparently, the fact that a local resident is living among business people who are fearful that they may end up on the wrong end of a gun is in some way “dishonest.” That’s, no doubt, part of the problem when you live in a Police state like Suffolk County. This is not the Soviet Union and the NKVD is not going to visit you in the middle of the night – but the thieves might.
Let’s hope that there’s a better way of dealing with this problem. With four major break-ins and robberies (that we know about) in less than a year at Magic’s Pub and Sunset Café alone, thieves have targeted this Village. Criticizing what is written about it is, at the very least, missing the point. Instead, how about constant evening patrols by the police in a Village that is only a few square blocks – and electing a Mayor who knows what’s going on before we have a ghost town where business used to thrive.

Apparently, the former police chief (Mayor Conrad Teller) was not even aware that there had been a robbery at the Post Stop when he was told about the business owner’s meeting to discuss security. There’s no excuse for that. That’s incompetence. And, the current Chief, Ray Dean, needs to reevaluate his manpower strategy while he’s planning his retirement – without resorting to the old “we need more money and men” ploy. Pay attention to what’s going on and get to work!
The Hamptons has more than enough police at salaries that would make New York City cops red in the face. What we need are leaders who give a damn and can direct the ample forces already in place – before someone is seriously hurt or killed

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Hamptons Crime Wave

In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
-- Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914)

Last year on Martin Luther King’s birthday, a local landmark, Magic’s Pub, was hit by an armed robbery in Westhampton Beach. The accomplished job was handled replete with ski masks and a casual pace that involved removing the safe and a few wide screen T.V's. There is no doubt that the significance of the holiday was part of the motivation for the robbery.
While it took place on Main Street in the Village of Westhampton Beach, with numerous lights on in front and behind the establishment, not a police officer could be found. Even the tapes of the entire event provided no useful clue to the Village government – which in a Police-happy location like the Hamptons is even more interesting – given the fact that the Mayor is the former Chief of Police. He was voted in on a law and order platform. Other establishments have been hit as well.
No follow up or leads have ever been developed and all has been forgotten. The Mayor has made no effort to solve the crime. No attempt was ever made to make businesses feel as if they are appreciated and the event was regrettable, if not avoidable. Business has gone on as usual since. Although, as one business owner has confided, this is no longer the little Village that I moved to twenty years ago.

And, then it happened again last night.

Scary or not, Halloween has not even arrived yet. Or, has it?
The Post Stop café on Main Street was hit again in Westhampton Beach at 12:30 a.m. early this morning. Two sources confirm that Sandy, the owner, was confronted by three men wearing ski masks – carrying guns. Apparently, they not only took the money but her purse as well. She survived but it took a toll on her emotionally.
This time it was armed robbery.
Thieves are emboldened when a Village is unable to, or unwilling to solve crimes. It is also an unofficial way of telling businesses to leave.

Makes you wonder why the Mayor, Conrad Teller, is so concerned with the Eruv controversy when he can’t even keep the Village safe from crime. While Rabbi Schneier has been perceived as being a little too heavy in his campaign, the real objection to the Eruv is the fear that Westhampton Village will become another 5 Towns – with all business closed by the Orthodox Jews on Saturdays.
But, it’s no wonder that businesses close down on Saturday – and every other day -- after Labor Day. It’s not just the lack of attendance by tourists. And, this year it will be worse – a lot worse. Between the fear of crime and the severe recession we are about to enter, there will be heavy layoffs in the Hamptons and businesses that close because it is simply not safe. The free-flowing property tax money and the disposable income from New Yorkers will also not be the same. Wall Street has taken care of that.

Speaking of the the spector of anti-Semitism in the air, the close relative of racism – apparently Spanish Night at a local café in Westhampton Beach, which has become a popular part of the Village one night a week, has at least one or two detractors.

While Village government is busy fighting the Jews, Barbara Ramsay, former Planning Board member and local realtor has decided that Latino music is far too loud for her -- at any decibel level.
Despite the fact that this occurs in a commercial zone, she objects. Instead of speaking to the staff about her opinion that the music played INSIDE the café a few hundred feet away from her office/home on Sunset Avenue is too loud, she goes directly to the police. She knows all of the government people very well.
But, is this a good neighbor problem, or is it just that those pesky Latinos – along with the Jews – are upsetting one of the “insiders” in Westhampton Village government -- by their very existence?
The local gossip is that business owners are getting tired of the do-nothing Mayor who nods off at meetings and who does not want to promote business. And, the word is that they are offended by the fact that the entire Village is being operated by the small time, small-minded and racist proclivities of people like Ramsay, Building Inspector Houlihan and Code Enforcer Bridget Napoli – supported by the Mayor. In a Village where it takes a year to get a sign approved for a new business unless it’s a friend of the Mayor or Ramsay, or Houlihan or Napoli – or someone else at Town Hall.
While Ramsay was an official deciding variance applications, her husband was taking orders on local building contracts. James Zizzi comes to mind in the Town of Southampton, on that score.

The fact that neither the police nor the government have sought to assure local business owners -- or have ever asked for their opinions on how to make local government more business friendly – is telling.
More and more businesses close up in the winter due to the lack of interest by elected officials or the harassment by building inspectors and code enforcement – and now the safety issue will compound that perception of an official anti-business agenda (except for compliant friends).

The times are apparently a-changin’ – and Mayberry is an old series whose time has passed along with Gomer Pyle. Apparently, Westhampton Beach Village government needs a top to bottom change itself. Like entering the 21st century.

If not, keep driving when you reach the Westhampton Beach exit on the Sunrise. Your life may depend upon it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Equal Rights in the Hamptons

Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things.
-- Russell Baker (1925 - )

Many of those who emigrated to the East End in the 60’s and 70’s now are the political cognoscenti who play out the moral and ethical tapes running the Hamptons government. In other words, while some headed for the Berkshires, as some might run to Burning Man now, artists, activists and reactionaries moved to the Hamptons for solace and escape.
Blacks, Asians, Gays, Latinos, need not apply. It was strictly lily-white, non-Jewish, and mostly Protestant.

Little has changed with regard to those sensibilities. Although, the police force and local governments have gotten a shot in the arm from eight years of “W” since he’s been off the bottle. The Republican Party, the party of Senator Craig, has managed nicely to co-opt the Democrats with the help of Rich Schaeffer, the County Democratic Chairman – and both Republican and Democratic politicians are “with the program.” Tim Bishop, a Democrat, regularly works with Assembly member Fred Thiele, who is Schaeffer’s relative.

As an aside, Schaeffer’s sabotaging of Democrats when they face Republicans he favors has become notorious. In the current Town Justice election (DeMayo vs. Schiavoni), for example, the balloting has been arranged so that a blank space appears in such a way that the voters eyes will drop – veering the voter away from Andrea Schiavoni towards Tom DeMayo. It’s an old Tammany Hall trick, which may cost Schiavoni the race.

The control of politics and the Hamptons culture inures to the Police and those politicians who trample upon the rights of anyone who gets in their way. The escapee mentality is less obvious in the summer when the money is to be made, but, in winter, all bets are off. Even local residents become targets when there are no New Yorkers to prey upon. Having worked in the South Bronx during the 70’s when death reigned in an area that resembled Berlin after WWII, the police at Fort Apache in the Bronx earned their money. Local law enforcement in the Hamptons, carrying Glock automatics, face about as much danger at their jobs as a bumblebee facing a hostile rose bush.

Consider the case of a young local woman, for example, who was pulled over for a missing license plate. Bear in mind, now, that only one plate was missing. This was not a renegade hijacking. But, police have little to do in Southampton. Being a cop in Southampton is slightly more intellectually challenging than being on the Town Board. Decisions are made carefully.
It takes a great deal of thought to decide how to deal with an attractive young woman who can’t open her car window and has some weed debris in the vehicle.
As Lewis Black, the comedian, recently opined, “The failure of our generation was that we never got pot legalized.”
That fact, and the fact that having a few seeds, a few butts or a twig of weed, was never considered more than an “appearance ticket” violation.

So, Stacy Hartline, was confronted with a situation Nancy Botwin (Weeds) would have played by embarrassing the cop into taking a walk.
Even Officer Gallo, who had just returned to the job after beating a record of 18 job-related complaints, decided to call in the situation to his superior, Darren Gagnon. But, what Gallo may or may not have realized until then was that Gagnon had put the make on Hartline the week before at the Public House and had been rejected. Cops with big guns don’t like to be turned down, or else. So Gagnon arrives at the scene and Hartline is cuffed and dragged to the precinct.

Gagnon, Gallo and their female compatriot, Maria Donovan – described as having been the Village Police force’s personal paramour in a prior life – prepared the homecoming. For having some weed debris, Hartline is strip-searched in full view of a video camera that beamed the unwilling sex party for the boys throughout the station house.
Apparently, Donovan, having had her day, was willing to violate not only the rights of Ms. Hartline – but also the rights of women – to regain her usefulness to the boys.

Keep in mind that it’s taken five years to get to the point where a jury will hear this case – or, it will be settled? For big money.

Makes you wonder when the local residents will get sick enough of the increase in taxes resulting from an avalanche of lawsuits hitting the Hamptons over civil rights violations and unconstitutional behavior that will make a change in behavior among police and government officials more appealing.

Watch for Nuzzi to use the current “Green” issue to help “Skip” Heaney rear his ugly head in local Hamptons politics. Nuzzi was always a Heaney plant --- from Crookhaven where the mob gained a footing in local politics – and who was taken on Board for the purposes of running for Supervisor after Heaney. There is little doubt that Nuzzi, who has been described as someone who has never had an original thought in his life – is being propped up by Heaney. This is Heaney’s ploy in an attempt to parlay the pork-barrel job thrown to him by County Executive Steve Levy – into a surreptitious control of the Town of Southampton where he was thrown out by Linda Kabot.
Levy, of course, like Rich Schaeffer, is a Republican in all but party designation. All of the typical bias, anti-Latino, anti-Civil Rights and anti-New Yorker rhetoric as well as sentiment are well controlled by Levy as well.
But, the legislative facts are the proof in the pudding.

Currently, in an attempt to appear forward-looking, Anna Throne-Holst, the current Board member who is doing Dan Russo (puppy eyes), came up with the idea of making all new construction energy-efficient.
While the thought is nice, the Town Board has not had an original practical idea for the last half-century and is currently coping with the fact that 2009 will be the year that police and civil servants get pink slips. And, that the party held with wheelbarrows of cash from New Yorkers -- is over -- and that the newer wheelbarrows of cash will more likely hold currency from the Weimar Republic: both Devalued and scarce.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Doom and Gloom Part II

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
--Abraham Lincoln

As the Town of Southampton with its visionary government contemplates the permanent arrival of Dan Russo to complete the rejuvenated Republican control of the Town Board, a few things have become clearer.

One of the first acts of nouveau thought on the Board has come from Anna Throne-Holst, ostensibly a Democrat, who in the midst of a meltdown in the real estate and financial markets, has introduced legislation pushing “green” building for all new construction. The implications for this law were never thought through and while we would all like wind and solar power to take us off the grid – making all new construction more expensive and more difficult to accomplish – is like stabbing the EMS worker trying to save his victim on the gurney. Neither she nor the Town Board appears to know, or care about, the technical requirements that allow homeowners to recover the cost of solar installations through tax credits and rebates. Environmental consultants will tell you that there are serious limitations which prevent solar panels, geothermal pumps, wind generators or other “green” installations. The cost for the average person is prohibitive. Solar systems, which do not even eliminate electrical dependence upon LIPA, can cost $30,000 to $50,000. Then, there’s the heating system.

Wind generators, for example, are not permitted in many areas in the Hamptons. Solar panels will not work adequately in shaded locations and as a result, will not qualify for rebates and tax credits.

In some cases, where roof installations do not capture sunlight, the degree of exposure will not qualify for rebates and those mechanicals and panels would require sprawling installations that can encroach upon entire sections of one’s property.

And, a myriad of problems accompany the new law regarding pool heaters.

This law appears to have been conceived with no thought and certainly no consideration of the volatile economic environment in which we all live.

The proposed initiative threatens to cost homeowners more money and negatively affect local businesses while it will hinder the applications for new construction, except for the rich. This, as the housing implosion struggles on – and, as a 26 year low in new building permits dogs the economy.

That’s without even considering the meltdown in the financial markets.

For local homeowners, especially seniors, this is a kick in the head.
Why, then, is this new initiative being forced upon everyone in a disastrous economy?
Because, the Town Board, is a train out of control.

AND, this is a further attempt to continue the intrusive, unconstitutional tactics being used to target New Yorkers and landlords with “legal” codes.

It is a license to renew the Spanish Inquisition.

The local Hamptons economy is headed for a brick wall, as it is in Manhattan. In the Hamptons, finances are now a very serious problem. The Supervisors have been dipping into the Community Preservation Fund (the fund intended for purchases of open land), which is now being used to pay salaries. Property tax collections are down, transfer taxes are non-existent and fees are way off. Mortgages, the grease for the economy, which allows New Yorkers to buy in the Hamptons, are virtually non-existent.
And, yet, the Town of Southampton continues to target landlords as the anti-Latino immigrant Code Enforcement posse (initiated by “Skip” Heaney) continues to kill the rental market. The sales market (except for housing in the $500,000 range) is already dead. They want to bury it.

It won’t be long before local businesses will be wishing for more customers – whether they’re legal or speak English and hang out in front of 7-11. The Minutemen, the anti-immigrant group that has been harassing people and encouraging politicians, are not going to pick up the slack in business.
So, in order to keep beating the dead horse of New Yorker investments in housing, the real reason for the “green” laws -- may be more of an effort to provide yet another excuse for Building Inspectors, Fire Marshals and Code Enforcement police to enter your property with, or without, a warrant. And, with or without your permission.

Every time a new building permit is issued, every time that a new law is passed regarding housing modifications is passed – it becomes INSPECTION TIME. Let’s all go into your house and see what you’ve got.

Maybe, if we’re not looking to target you for something right now, we can keep a record (and some photos), so we can use it later if you’re not compliant. And, we’ll charge you for it so that the idiots who the Town needs to keep employing can get paid.

Further, the Town of Southampton is now desperately trying to bring in new fees and fines to support the economy. It won’t work.

The engine driving Hamptons economics is running out of steam.

Manhattan condo sales are starting to collapse. Coop and condo fee defaults will further stress the remaining owners who are not in default. And, the nearly 100,000 ADDITIONAL employees on Wall Street about to lose their jobs this coming year (yes, the ones that buy Hamptons properties and rent summer houses) will devastate the Hamptons. Some see this mini-Depression taking from 5 to 15 years to play out. Remember, it took housing 20 years to recover during the last Great Depression.

While Linda Kabot, the new Supervisor, is a local and a Republican – perhaps its time for the government to sit down with the enemy (New Yorkers who are landlords) and start talking cooperation.

If she continues to leave policy and planning to the likes of the clerical appointees, the racist Code Enforcement Police and the rest of the clueless Town Board, the flunkies in the Town Attorney’s office and the Building Department – they’ll all soon be out of a job, or broke.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Winds of Change in the Hamptons

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
--Plato (427 BC - 347 BC)

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.
--George Jean Nathan (1882 - 1958)

As the summer season winds down in the Hamptons, the local government is beginning to become aware of the errors of its ways. Uncontrolled spending, like the $3 million off-budget for outside legal fees, has finally come home to roost and has pickled the pork. No longer able to siphon money off from the New Yorker gravy train as real estate sinks into the muck and mire, it becomes clear that the Republicans – from Southampton Town Hall to Washington – have truly bankrupted this nation. As Latinos have been forced to leave town due to the selective enforcement of zoning laws by Code Enforcement Police, New Yorkers have followed suit by escaping with their cash. Political hostility towards those who pay the bills is simply stupid.

The Town of Southampton, which withholds the vote from New Yorkers and allows no representation for those who support the local economy, is finally feeling the pinch. The political winds of change may be in store for the nation but not in the Hamptons; the inbred Republicans do whatever is necessary to maintain a reactionary grip on the remaining purse strings – even if it means dipping into whatever money is left. The Community Preservation Fund is one of the favorites.

As local politicians fiddle while awaiting their economic fate, others enjoy of the camaraderie of New Yorkers who have similar views and still summer in the Hamptons before the lights go off. Despite the inhospitable local political environment, the natural beauty of the seashore and the excitement of a Manhattan campaign bring out the voters on their way back to the City for the September Primary. Westhampton Beach is a perfect stopping off point for Democrats either on their way back to New York or on their way out East for the balance of the summer.

Just such a crowd stopped in at the Sunset Café in Westhampton Beach where candidate Nancy Bannon met with supporters recently at her “Meet and Greet.” She’s running for Manhattan Civil Court and has received endorsements from all of the important Downtown politicians and recently was chosen as the best candidate by the New York Times.
At the Café, those who represent activism and judicial fairness in the courts surrounded her and she spoke about her upcoming contest on September 9th.

Speaking of a Democrat in our future, the best Obama Convention Party in the Hamptons will be held at the Sunset Café in Westhampton Beach on Thursday evening, August 28th. A wide-screen T.V. will broadcast the Democratic Convention and the festivities will begin at 8:30 p.m. Fellow Obama supporters will have the opportunity to express their views and visitors may order a “Barack Rocks” or a “McCain Straight” at the cash bar. Republicans as well as Democrats are welcome and it starts at 8:30.
There’s no cover or minimum, just great food and drinks available at reasonable prices.

Keep your eyes on Bloomberg. Apparently, he has no suitable options once he leaves office next year. Of course, since that would be an inconvenience for him – he and his Harvard boys in City Hall have decided that he should change the term-limits law and run again.
To this end, he’s met with Murdoch (NY Post) and Zuckerman (Daily News) who he hopes will lend their support in convincing us that they all know best.
Murdoch is known to not be happy with the contenders for the mayoral race, perhaps because William Thompson is the leading candidate – and according to the press (what’s left of it), Murdoch and Bloomberg left dinner in a jovial mood.

Get ready to be told by the press how much we really like Hi-rise Mike. And, how good he’s been as he eats up Manhattan or hands the developers a free ride – at our expense.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Turkeys Come Home to Roost

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Why are we surprised when politicians play politics? It's not like they are supposed to be real adults... they are, after all, politicians and don't have real jobs and aren't playing around with their money.

As the real estate market continues to tank, the Town of Southampton in its infinite wisdom is beginning to get the message that the gravy train has pulled to a sudden stop. There are signs that many properties will have dropped by 50% in value before the carnage is over. Recently, several developers have gone out of business, bailed out of land contracts or given properties back to lenders -- quietly. The statistics are sub Rosa but nonetheless real.
Less than six months ago, however, Linda Kabot the new Supervisor was naively clucking about the fact that there was more money in the last Community Preservation Fund paycheck than expected. It was a swan song.
Recently, after dipping into the Preservation fund illegally, in order to pay local Civil Service salaries and other expenses, the East Hampton Supervisor apparently uncovered the brutal reality of the local New Yorker/real estate economy. The cash from Wall Street and Manhattan, in particular, greases the wheels of the local economy. Everyone feeds off of this. Investment properties, summer homes, rental properties, all support the cost of the local government by way of transfer taxes, property taxes, real estate fees and a variety of fines.

Kabot's recent giddy statement, was dutifully printed by the Southampton Town Republican organ, The Southampton Press – despite the fact that signs abounded which clearly indicated that the local economy is not only not a speedboat heading for a joyride, but is beginning to look more like the Titanic grasping for a rubber duck.
If you know anyone in the mortgage business, real estate business, title business, or legal business – you know how bad it really is.
Summer rentals have been severely affected, sales on any properties over $500,000 are few and far between, gas prices are pushing $5 per gallon and food increases are serious. The combined affect of credit card and mortgage debt, Wall Street layoffs about to hit, and increases in fuel and food – will not really hit this economy in full force until the fall.
That’s when the cost of food and fuel for transportation and heating force people to make a choice. Should we eat, drive to work, heat the house or pay the mortgage? There are many people who haven’t had to turn on the heating system for 4 months now and who will not be able to afford all of those necessities. Of course, many New Yorkers will certainly have an easier time deciding whether to buy that second home or pay for the one they already have. Spending the weekends in Southampton becomes more doubtful when staying warm costs $1500 per month. Selling the house becomes another viable option when choosing between a second set of utilities and gas to get to the Hamptons.
The fiction that PR firms would have you believe, that the preponderance of vacation and investment homes in the Hamptons are owned by rich Wall Streeters, is little more than hype.

Despite the reality that we may have at least another two years of severe contraction to face as the banks fail and Wall Street dives, however, Hamptons politicians continue to play out a doomsday scenario. Civil Service employees so far are insulated from the necessary downsizing while fines and penalties continue to be levied against the very people who bring cash to the economy. And, the virulent racism against those who treat Latinos as human beings, continues.

It has been nearly two years since Skip Heaney announced in Suffolk Life, a pennysaver publication operated by Dave Wilmot, a right wing drunk who arrogantly dictated his version of Christian morality to its readers, that the Republican plan was to attack employers, business owners and landlords. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a Republican in all but title has apparently rewarded Heaney for this with a job that ostensibly seeks to find affordable housing. It's nothing more than a payoff for his racist views which Levy shares.
Heaney's plan, with running mates Linda Kabot and Chris Nuzzi was always clear. In order to terrorize the Latinos out of town, they would put business owners out of business and criminalize landlords. The emotional and financial cost of supporting these people who were hated by many local residents -- would be made so onerous, that these underpaid Latino workers would be forced to leave. The Constitution be damned.

The plan worked. Aided by the Southampton Justice Court and search warrants issued by Judge Thomas DeMayo, Code Enforcement clowns would break in to homes at 5 a.m. looking for smoke detectors that had no batteries.
Many illegal AND legal workers left town. Not because of the discrimination, though. They left because the economy is sliding into a mild Depression – which leaves Mexico and Costa Rica looking like it has better fiscal management.

What also worked is that the organized efforts on the part of the Town Attorney’s Office, the Town Board, the Fire Marshal and Code Enforcement, the Town Investigator and the Supervisor herself – in conjunction with the Republican Party and local media (Southampton Press, and Suffolk Life).
All worked in tandem to force business owners and landlords to submit to the policy of institutional racism. It was no longer simply the anti-Semitic, anti-Gay and anti-Black policy that runs deeply through local politics. They had a new enemy: Latinos. People who were passive, worked hard, didn’t complain and were law-abiding. A perfect target, along with business owners and landlords. Since landlords simply own and rent property and rarely have any contact with tenants (brokers and management companies do) – and since business owners simply serve the customers who patronize them – the Town had perfect targets.

The Town Investigator (David Betts) was instructed to find out where the Latinos lived and which political enemies of the Republican administration had rental properties to target; Cheryl Kraft (Fire Marshal and head of Code Enforcement) sent her boys and girls to find housing violations; the Town Attorney’s Office (Michael Sendlenski, Joe Lombardo,) drew up the criminal complaints; and, the Justice Court (Tom DeMayo) issued search warrants.
And, they have all worked together to create targets. The Hamptons Bays Diner, for example, became a target simply for serving Latino customers. In response to queries as to why Code Enforcement Police blocked the entrance to the Diner with guns drawn to prevent Latino's from entering, Town Attorney Daniel Adams responded that claims of racism was "absurd."
Makes you wonder what law school he comes out of -- or, perhaps, what rock he crawled out from under.
As Jamie Lee Curtis says about Kevin Kline's character in "A Fish Called Wanda," -- calling him stupid would be an insult to stupid people.

Working in tandem, in Westhampton Beach, local businesses have been targeted by robberies that resemble the work of Nixon’s Plumbers. Heaney's hand, along with that of the Republican Party Chairman Marcus Stinchi and retired Code Enforcement police is palpable.
A close working relationship between Mayor Teller, a former cop, and Code Enforcement in the Town of Southampton is clearly emerging. Former top Code Enforcement employee, Steve Frano, for example, known as Code Enforcement One, himself a defendant in a Federal lawsuit for discriminatory behavior, is now a court officer in Westhampton Beach. Can you say, close knit Police State?

Local politicians are big on retaliation and silencing political criticism in the Hamptons.

Thousands of criminal summonses have been issued by Cheryl Kraft’s minions for minor, petty violations that exist in every house on the East End of Long Island. Only houses rented to or inhabited by Latinos have been hit.
This has been institutional racism and unconstitutional behavior at its worst and, unfortunately, for those who engaged in this little play -- the eventual cost to local taxpayer's will be high. The lawsuits are only just beginning.
The outside legal costs for the Town will start to skyrocket just as the income from those who have been targeted will diminish – rapidly. Property taxes, transfer taxes, development and purchases of local services and goods will plummet.

Just when local residents and tourists are deciding whether to eat, buy fuel and gas – or, pay their mortgage.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Freedom of the Press?

As repressed sadists are supposed to become policemen or butchers so those with irrational fear of life become publishers.
--Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)

Fires have always been a big story in the Hamptons. In fact, during the 1970's, on the few channels that you could watch (there was no cable and only 3 stations that you could actually watch without going blind from the snow), fires were the main attraction. They still are. Since there weren't that many fires occurring locally, Connecticut channel 8 was a big hit in the 60's and 70's. Entertainment-wise, fires were the Hamptons version of Farmer Gray cartoons, in which mice interminably flowed from a kitchen faucet in television's first cartoon offerings.

But, this was no simple fire. Apparently, this was an attempted murder, suicide and fire that occurred at Len Conway's estate in Westhampton Beach. Conway is a hedge-fund, takeover celebrity with a large residence on Seafield Avenue. The information that could be gleaned has it that the couple living in the Conway estate guest house had a big fight, she was beaten nearly to death, the house was set afire and he ran away only to be found dead by his own hand nearby. Suffolk Police, Westhampton Village Police and even Southampton Town Police were on the scene.

Photos of the crime scene and interviews of the police were refused. No access was permitted and the Police would not allow Press to visit the site. It was so difficult to gain access that a real estate showing was interrupted. Of course, the Police Commissioner, Mayor Conrad Teller, was just re-elected. He's the former Police Chief of Westhampton Beach Village. No doubt he is feeling his oats after his win and residents can expect fewer solved crimes in the Village and less information from his office (if that is possible). There were three major robberies last winter in Westhampton Village that were never solved and the trend is clear. No doubt, he's decided, the best way to avoid any criticism, is to completely prevent any press coverage for any but the most complimentary reports from the non-existent neutral media in the Hamptons.

News anchor John Roland lost his bid for Village Trustee by two votes. Jim Kametler, his opponent, the police officer who nailed a possum in his backyard with five shots from his service revolver apparently still has the support of the local NRA contingent and the Police State mentality continues. Makes you wonder if Kametler knows the Quogue cop who shot a Latino for defending himself with a tree branch. Possums are even less likely to fight back.

Speaking of the Press, Suffolk Life, operated by Dave Wilmot, reportedly is shutting down the publication this coming week. It passed as a media source for decades which Wilmot used as a bully-pulpit for right wing law enforcement Republican enthusiasts. The success of the publication was based upon a Supreme Court ruling that mail recipients could not stop someone from mailing shit to you in the form of a newspaper -- if you didn't want it. While Wilmot, known as a heavy boozer who is arrogant and a little crazy, and who managed to intimidate his way into a level of modest importance, his reporters were basically lackeys who were told what to write. Few of them had any journalistic education but knew how to take orders from a drunk. "News" stories were dictated by people like Joe Lombardo of the Town Attorneys office when the object of a recent interview cooked up by the Town and Suffolk Life by Wilmot's "reporter" -- was created to support the phony propaganda plan to put landlords who rent property to Latinos out of business. Ridding the Town of either legal or illegal Latinos is big business now. With the economy about to go into the dumper, any competition is anathema -- even if no one wants the jobs that are left behind.

Wilmot turned down $4.5 million for a deal for the paper and his plant less than two years ago. The Media source who was interviewed thought Wilmot was nuts but the deal failed anyway. The most recent rumor has been that Lowe's wants the property for $10 million. However, lawsuits for defamation may eat into that substantially. That may not sit will with Wilmot, Jr., who was "Skip" Heaney's campaign manager in a failed bid to win another term as Supervisor of Southampton Town.

Wilmot, in his 70's, is said to be suffering from a heart condition, bleeding intestines, and has been in and out of the hospital. He is known as a right-winger and a right-to-lifer, whose personal predilections have never had anything to do with what was good for the masses or the paid-for political assassinations he promulgated for his politician friends in Suffolk Life. Rumor has it that he badgered and threatened anyone with his "pennysaver" if they were not a supporter; personal abortions had little to do with what was good for everyone else. He did favors for politicians in targeting enemies and in turn got deals on advertising as well as a long-term illegal tax abatement for his plant location in Riverhead -- which he proceeded to sublet for a nice income. No one in the County looked at it twice. No one wanted to screw with him, even while his "newspaper" screwed them.

One of the few news sources in the Hamptons that shows any respect for the truth, if there is such a thing in politics is Dean Spier, whose On the Beach Blog, talks about things that many local politicians would wish would go away. Especially, in Westhampton Beach Village. The other media source, Southampton Press, the newspaper of choice for Republican "News" has improved lately. It does do a little fact checking -- even when Linda Kabot, the Supervisor, Cheryl Kraft and David Betts of Code Enforcement "leaks" information to them after Marcus Stinchi, Chairman of the Republican Party approves it. But, they still do the right spin on any facts so that they are "neutral" on anything that the Republicans are embarrassed by -- gotta keep them ad dollars flowing., a storefront operation out of Southampton which is strictly online has created a presence but is still a succubus. Its prime "writer," right now, Andrea Aurichio, is a real estate agent who passes herself off as a reporter while trying to make a living in real estate. Two professional endeavors that don't pay very well right now. While this online publication provides listings, it is known by residents as a site that will steer you in the wrong direction on news and has a high anti-Latino, anti-landlord stance -- in order to be popular enough to get ad dollars. They follow the Town of Southampton Republican party line -- meaning to not insult the Republicans, Town Attorneys, Town Board members, or Code Enforcement office at Town Hall. The operation is looking a little thin and may not be far behind Suffolk Life. Don't expect them to endorse Obama. Senator Craig or Mike Huckabee is more likely.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Poll Dancing

The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.
-- Joseph Stalin (1879 - 1953)

Vote early and vote often.
-- Al Capone (1899 - 1947)

Two of the most contentious Village elections are being held this Friday in the Hamptons. They are the Southampton Village election for two of the Village Trustees – and in the Village of Westhampton Beach where two of the Trustees and the Mayor are up for re-election.
Generally, Village governments have four Trustees and a Mayor. The Town of Southampton, the government that controls the Town, which includes Villages and Hamlets within that township, has a Town Board of four members and a Supervisor. Incorporated Villages like the Village of Southampton and the Village of Westhampton Beach, have their own government and police force within the township but are also responsible to the Town on matters like taxation and political control.
Similarly, East Hampton Town and East Hampton Village have distinct governmental entities.

The election in Southampton Village has been more contentious lately because of the political antagonisms arising from various charges of corruption and pandering to the forces of development leveled at the local government in one of the Hamptons richest locations. To make matters worse, the problems among the rank and file of the Village police department have exacerbated the reputation of law enforcement personnel who rank among the highest paid police officers in the country. Within two years, a novice can top $100 grand if he or she tows the line. Many also have private security companies that augment that income.
Local taxpayers, of course, look askance at the shenanigans, when an on-duty police officer is double dipping – collecting a salary while working his own gig.

Christopher Broich is one of the candidates for the Trustee election this week. Broich is a former Southampton P.D. officer, who was dropped from the force when he blew the whistle on Southampton P.D. Chief Wilson -- who was caught double-dipping and also finding cushy security slots for his girlfriend on duty (like movie sets at $80/hr). Other officers expected the work that Wilson’s girlfriend was getting – because of their legitimate issues over seniority and experience. Of course, the boys weren’t always able to give Wilson the fealty he was getting from his girlfriend.

Contemplating some funny numbers, since the Village Clerk in some of these small villages is a political functionary counts the votes, Broich employed attorney George Guldi to even the playing field. Guldi, a successful attorney, is a former County Legislator who knows where the bones are all buried in local politics.
With close numbers, especially with regard to absentee ballots, the thought was – perhaps, the State Police would make better monitors of the election results than, say, the Southampton Police Department or the Suffolk County Police who are controlled by District Attorney Tom Spota.
There’s no secret that disallowing the dimpled Chad in Florida (not to mention entire groupings of votes) gave the election to George Bush in 2000. A phony count could do the same here.
Supreme Court Judge Whalen agreed and signed an order to show cause forcing the Village to be more circumspect.

In Westhampton Beach Village, former Police Chief and current Mayor Conrad Teller, supported by another police office Dan Kametler, and Toni-Jo Birk are running together against Tim Laube for Mayor and candidates for Village Trustee, John Roland and Elyse Richman.
While there is some mudslinging, the current crowd – Teller, Kametler and Birk have been conveniently hiding behind a thinly disguised two-pronged attempt to both attack the Jews over the eruv and accuse their adversaries of being anti-Semitic. While the lip-service supports the Jews, the planted Letters to the Editor in the media clearly show their real attitudes.

Essentially, the anti-Semitism has been carefully played because, of course, no one wants to be accused of wanting the Jews or the Synagogue out of town. In fact, the distortions that were promulgated over the positioning of a few pieces of black plastic on telephone poles got totally distorted. Issues of “separation of church and state” were disseminated sub Rosa, and rumors were spread that the Jews wanted all business to close on Saturdays.

Teller was quoted as being in favor of the eruv and attacking mayoral candidate Tim Laube for being anti-Semitic after Village Board meetings clearly showed the reverse -- when Teller was awake. Those who know Teller personally have laughingly appreciated his public "political" attitude toward Jews and his so-called campaign to support their religious rights while commenting that he is rabidly anti-Semitic in private.

What has been left out of all of this is the fact that the Synagogue had withdrawn the application weeks ago so that it is a non-issue.
What has remained of this is the fact that business in Westhampton Beach is evaporating and each Winter fewer and fewer businesses are able to remain open due to the lack of support from its government.
This winter, in addition to the lack of business, several robberies occurred and none of the crimes were ever solved. With a Mayor who was the former Chief of Police, there is also a serious question about his ability to protect its residents -- or, the tourists.

Laube wants to increase business and make Main Street a more viable place to shop. As the closest Hampton, considering the upward spiral of fuel, Westhampton Village is poised for a renaissance and should have leadership for the new century.
Teller wants to roll back the clock and allow more businesses to close and send the Jews packing. Forget the fact that Rabbi Schneier pushed for the Performing Arts Center and fostered the growth of family-oriented changes. Forget that the White House has an eruv. Forget that the utility poles are not public and are owned by Verizon. Forget that this is not a separation of church and state issue and makes the Village of Westhampton Beach look like a bunch of religious bigots and will lose in court if it is challenged – and forget that Mayor Teller voted for it despite his real feelings.

James Kametler, Teller’s Deputy Mayor, another former police officer, who is a trustee, wants to keep shooting his gun at animals in his backyard. He’s already been cited for discharging his weapon at a possum in his backyard and got the officer who was going to arrest him fired for making the report. Kametler shot the animal five times. Can you say “high on life” with a pistol? And, he’s so media savvy that he’s served a “cease and desist” order on a local blogger Dean Spier – someone who has criticized him severely. But, nothing compares to the anonymous reader comments to the Southampton Press website.
Tony-Jo Birk, a current trustee, wanted to help keep a local bar owned by Mayor Teller’s friend out of the line of sight of the East End Drug Task Force. So she and Teller visited D.A. Spota’s office together in order to get them to pull the detail out of Westhampton Beach Village for that reason. Drugs, what drugs?
The fact that a drug dealer was arrested last year selling at the Middle School by local police is one indication of the need for that Task Force.

Elyse Richman, a single mother who works hard and runs three small businesses in the Village, seems to be a threat to the two trustees she is challenging as well. Rather than allow a fair election, they managed to get her knocked off the ballot on an election law technicality.
To her credit she is running as a write-in candidate.
John Roland, the former T.V. anchor, whose wife is currently very ill, is also running against the entrenched anti-business crowd and is someone with a greater vision for this special little village.

As a final note on Hamptons politics, it is worth noting that Sally Pope, an attorney from Remsenburg, is running against Dan Russo, a former prosecutor and Republican appointment to the seat filled by Linda Kabot at the direction of the Republican Party. His moniker is “Puppy Eyes."
While Anna Throne-Holst, now controlled by the Republican thought machine had managed to take one of the seats as a Democrat, she quickly fit in. Apparently, according to sources, she and "Puppy Eyes" are an item -- keeping the Board fully Republican in more than spirit.
While Pope is challenging Russo, Andrea Schiavoni is challenging DeMayo for Justice of the Town Court.
DeMayo is known for his role in signing all of the unconstitutional search warrants that have targeted only Latinos in the Town – as well as landlords who don’t want to wind up in jail or bankruptcy court for simply renting a house to those brown people who he would rather see living in the woods with their children.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hamptons Doom and Gloom

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
--David Brin

Money can't buy happiness, but neither can poverty.
--Leo Rosten

Despite the five dollar a gallon gas which has already hit Manhattan and the Hamptons, people still got their Porches, Volvos, Range Rovers and Lexus SUV’s on the road for Memorial Day weekend. In fact, even if gas goes to ten dollars a gallon, those who have a weekend home in the Hamptons will still party. There will be fewer parties and more car-pooling, but a hundred bucks for five people to get to the beach is not a deal killer.
What is a deal killer is $10 dollar gas and a cop hassling you about a rental permit. Or, visiting a gallery to look at a few pieces of art and have a glass of champagne – only to have the police barge in and bust the gallery owner.

The Hamptons IS Long Island. It’s where the money heads and where the money lands – it is the destination for Wall Streeters and their cash. Long Island is otherwise a large collection of communities, which, aside from the moronic ramblings of Dave Wilmot, the publisher of Suffolk Life who writes out of Riverhead and pontificates at the Hamptons (only because people can’t legally stop his pennysaver news from arriving in their mailbox), would sink without the tourist money. Wilmot’s suggestions, which are neither new nor his, are that Long Island becomes its own state. This emulates the ranting of an alcoholic in heat. Senator Craig was more eloquent when they picked him up after soliciting in a Men’s Room.
Even with the Republican Party, which Wilmot falls all over, trying to steal all of the Peconic Preservation Fund money, they still can’t make ends meet.
How would Chairman Stinchi, the Republicans in Southampton Town Hall and their flunkies in Code Enforcement and the Town Attorney’s Office function without their hands in the pockets of the tourists and the New Yorkers who pay their bills? Between fines, property taxes, fees and graft, a more serious downturn in real estate would be a disaster.
And, it’s on its way, guys.

But, the real travesty which is about to occur is the cost to the local men and women and their families who are suffering in the economy right now – and have a long way to go as this “non-recession” moves forward.
As the value of houses continue to fall in the middle-class and affordable range – from $500,000 to $900,000 (having arrived at that level by the double-digit gains of the last few years), the cost of food, fuel and medical costs are skyrocketing.

And, as another expert has stated simply:

“Falling home prices have made an increasing number of U.S. homeowners more vulnerable to default. Nearly a third of subprime borrowers owed more than their home was worth at the end of last year, and that figure will double to 63 percent in 2009, according to Credit Suisse.”

For those local residents who are retired or who are holding on in this dubious economy, no matter how irritating they find New Yorkers, things are about to get much worse while local government is moving forward with policies that assures more pain.
How does a local family with a breadwinner making $40,000 per year, or $800 per week, for example, with take-home pay of less than $600 per week pay for the escalating costs of health care and food – then pay $100 of that for gas just to get back and forth to work or run a business?

As the anti-Latino policy, which has risen to the level of institutional racism in the Town of Southampton, fewer immigrants will be available to do menial work. There will be fewer landscapers, cleaning people, laborers and dishwashers. But, there will also be fewer tenants, customers, workers and staff to keep people in business. The brown kid who did errands cheaply will be gone. Local residents did not have that kind of work in mind when they moved to the Hamptons or when they retired and are having trouble paying their heating bills and gasoline bills.
So, the Michael Sendlenskis and Joe Lombardos of the Town Attorney’s Office as well
as the Code Enforcement officers from Cheryl Kraft’s Office – who have been empowered to use the courts to break into people’s houses to check for smoke detectors in order to terrorize immigrants -- will also have less to do.
Lay-offs will follow. And, lawsuits will follow those who engaged in Town-sanctioned illegal activities.
The right wing residents will have fewer immigrants to rail at. And, they won’t be able to drive their cars or buy food either. Bush has already seen to that.

One would think that the immigrant problem, which will disappear due to the failed economics of the Bush era, is a success story about to happen due to racism driven by the doctrine of Home Rule. Instead, it is the result of the downward spiral in our economy that will also hit the Hamptons very hard. It will hit this fall as gas prices, heating bill prices, food prices and medical expenses reach a crescendo just as the market drops.

People who were here illegally or legally are already leaving a sinking ship. Not because of excessive enforcement – but because there is no work. Businesses are failing and money is tight. It has nothing to do with politics.
Yet the mindless bureaucrats in Southampton Town Hall will think that they have done a good job – just before they get a pink slip.

Two years ago the SoHo Journal wrote about the financial crisis that was about to hit.
Now, what is about to happen is all over the news. It’s no longer a secret.
While the government IS still hiring, it’s highly specific. They need bank examiners to handle the coming wave of bank failures.

Here’s what’s going on.
The price of real estate is continuing to drop. In fact, last month single-family houses dropped unexpectedly during the one and only remaining selling season – the Spring Selling Season – revered by real estate brokers. That’s not happening.
The inventory of unsold homes is now rising again, the sub prime and prime mortgage defaults are increasing, foreclosures are rapidly increasing, and the inventory of unsold homes is at a record level – and INCREASING.

Of course, what this does is further reduce the value of any unsold homes. The merry-go-round continues.

“Wachovia guru: Good-bye progress on housing front
Good-bye progress on housing front! "We had been making some progress over late 2007 and into 2008 on the inventory level," says Adam York at Wachovia, "and we basically erased all of that this month" following the latest existing home sales report. He says mortgage rates are low but tighter lending standards are stopping would-be homeowners from buying. A spike in foreclosures is also adding to the glut of unsold homes on the market, now at a 23-year high. York tells John Wordock he sees no housing bottom until later this year at the earliest.”

In the Hamptons, the upper level of properties is less affected. The middle range of homes is standing still. Sellers still have not budged, buyers are not moving.

And, even if there were some deals, there are no mortgages available. Only the government guaranteed mortgages up to the $400,000 range are available and even those are very difficult to close. Credit of all kinds is continuing to dry up.

In the midst of all of this, the Town of Southampton is engaged in a witch-hunt to punish landlords for having rented to immigrants when it is their job to police. Landlords cannot legally enter a tenant’s home without the fear of being arrested and the courts take months to evict anyone in a “holdover” action – which relates to tenant caused problems that is not related to payment of rent. Yet, the Town uses this to criminalize landlords for conditions beyond their control.
Rather than adopt a sane, logical method in dealing with a housing stock that is inadequate even for local residents, they have resorted to political targeting.

So, as the economic crisis moves forward, Southampton has adopted a Police State mentality. The only method that is known in these, here, parts.
Too lazy and too cheap to employ code inspectors who send out notices to correct violations, they have moved from Village and Town monitors to Enforcers who seek to criminalize every non-resident property owner. Added to this, they have sought to create a Rental Law that is merely a ruse for a new Immigration policy – a way to force landlords to reveal the names, addresses, and the immigration status of every tenant (only Latinos).
This policy will further add to the inventory of unsold homes, exacerbate the housing crisis by creating more foreclosures and vacant homes in what will become a blighted Hamptons.