Friday, February 26, 2010

Paterson ends election campaign

Is today’s announcement the end of the Gov. David Paterson saga?

Something tells me his decision to end his election campaign marks only the beginning of what could prove a long and painful ordeal for the Empire State. State Sen. Bill Perkins [D-Harlem,] a long-time Paterson ally, told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer earlier this morning he feels the governor will eventually step-down.

“It’s time for honestly and I believe that David Paterson knows better than anyone else how this investigation will end,” he said. “He knows what’s being investigated and he knows what’s at stake. He knows what he did, who he talked to. He knows under whose order the state troopers contacted this woman. If the investigation turns out the way many expect, his resignation is almost inevitable.”

Ironically, Paterson became governor nearly two years ago after his predecessor resigned amid a prostitution scandal. The fact he has been able to overcome numerous personal obstacles in his life remains an inspiration to an untold number of New Yorkers. The allegations that continue to swirl around Paterson, however, provide yet another reminder New York State government remains seriously broken.

Paterson stressed he plans to serve out the rest of his term—308 days. Events, however, may certainly dictate a far different outcome.

Snowicane 2010, Day 2

This car is parked in front of my building.

More snowed-in cars along Jefferson Street in front of my building.

My building.

The view from one of my bedroom windows earlier this morning.

It looks like spring will have to wait a few more weeks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Snowicane 2010

While certainly not a hurricane, the so-called Snowicane of 2010 continues to deposit a slushy mess on Bushwick. Here are the latest clips and images.

From my stoop around 3:30 p.m.

A school bus outside my building on Jefferson Street.

The Salvation Army thrift store's awning on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.

The intersection of Bedford Avenue and North 7th Street in Williamsburg.

Snowicane 2010

Yes, I have indeed succumb to the hype around what folks continue to dub the Snowicane of 2010. Here is a video I shot from my living room window about half an hour ago. It apparently will get far worse later this afternoon and tonight.

Where is that warm beach and refreshing fruity cocktail when you really need it?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monserrate to run in special election under "Yes We Can" party

One can certainly argue chutzpah remains in abundance in New York politics, and former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate's decision to declare himself a candidate in next month's special election under the "Yes We Can" party proves it is alive and very much well.

The state Senate expelled the former New York City Councilmember earlier this month in response to his conviction of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend inside his Jackson Heights apartment in Dec. 2008. The Democratic establishment has rallied behind state Assemblyman José Peralta [D-Jackson Heights] ahead of the March 16 special election. And pending any unforeseen scandals and/or other developments, Peralta will succeed Monserrate in Albany.

This almost certain reality, however, has not sunken in with Monserrate.

"I am committed, as I have always been, to defend the rights of the voters and never allowing their vote to be disenfranchised," he said in a statement released on Monday, Feb. 22. "The amount of community support during the past 6 days proves that voters in this district know who best represents them independently from party bosses, political hacks, and Albany insiders."

One truly cannot make this you know what up!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cuban dissident dies while on hunger strike

A prominent Cuban dissident who had been on a hunger strike since early December has died.

Yoani Sánchez and other Cuban bloggers reported Orlando Zapata Tamayo passed away earlier today. Zapata's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, confirmed her son's death in a brief telephone interview with el Nuevo Herald in Miami and on a YouTube video on Sánchez's blog.

Authorities arrested Zapata, 42, along with more than 70 other dissidents in a 2003 crackdown. And Zapata began his hunger strike on Dec. 3, 2009, to protest what he described as beatings and other human rights abuses in the eastern Cuba prison in which he served a 36-year sentence.

"Orlando Zapata Tamayo has died on the eve of Raúl Castro's second anniversary in power," Sánchez tweeted earlier tonight. "We call for national mourning!"

Comisión de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (or the Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation) reported authorities detained at least 23 people in Camaguey on Feb. 3 while they participated in a demonstration that called for Zapata's release. Amnesty International further reported CCDHRN said the authorities beat the demonstrators after they took them into custody.

"Orlando Zapata Tamayo's life has been added to a very long and painful list of names of valiant men and women who have given their entire lives for a free Cuba,"
a posting to read.

This list unfortunately grew even longer with Zapata's tragic death.

Estoy en solidaridad con los cubanos que siguen hablando su verdad desde su patria. I stand in solidarity with those Cubans who continue to speak their truth from within their homeland.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Judge sets trial date for gay Puerto Rican teenager’s alleged killer

Just posted this story to EDGE...

A Puerto Rican judge has found probable cause to prosecute a man who prosecutors contend brutally murdered a gay teenager last November.

Judge Roberto Anglero announced earlier today Juan José Martínez Matos’ trial will begin in Caguas on March 30. He denied a defense motion to lessen one of the charges against Martínez to second degree murder.

Prosecutors contend Martínez, who faces a first degree murder and three weapons charges, stabbed Jorge Steven López Mercado to death on Nov. 12, 2009. They further allege the suspect decapitated, dismembered and partially burned López’s body before he dumped it along a remote roadside near Cayey.

Several of López’s friends and acquaintances have identified Martínez as the man with whom they last saw the teenager as EDGE reported on Feb. 6. Details of López’s reported drug use and prostitution emerged during the preliminary hearing, but Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s applauded prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo’s handling of this case.

"She sent a very powerful message not to judge Jorge Steven; the person who should be judged is Juan Martínez Matos," he said.

Serrano also spoke with López’s family immediately after Anglero set the trial date.

"They’re satisfied, but as they just told me, nothing will bring Jorge Steven back," he said. "It’s a very emotional day for them because they are starting to see the beginning of justice, but the pain of losing a son-and losing a son in these circumstances is unbearable."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Manhattan from a Bushwick rooftop

It's a beautifully sunny afternoon here in New York, but these pictures of the Manhattan skyline from the roof of my building here in Bushwick earlier today provide yet another reminder of why I continue to love this city.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Federal judge expected to rule on Monserrate's expulsion

As embattled former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Jackson Heights] awaits a federal judge's decision on whether to block his expulsion, many of the state's top Democrats continue to defend the state Senate's decision to remove him.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told WNYC earlier this morning she thought her colleagues would support an expulsion of any member who faced allegations similar to those on which a Queens judge convicted Monserrate last October. And state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo described the former police officer's federal lawsuit as "absurd."

Absurd is certainly one adjective to use to describe this ongoing saga.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From a New Hampshire state of marriage to blogging in Cuban

I am wrapping-up a busy hump day with last minute e-mails (and of course this blog entry) before I head to bed, but a couple of things continue to resonate in my mind at this relatively late hour.

The New Hampshire House voted 210-109 earlier today to defeat a bill that would have repealed the state's law that has allowed gays and lesbians to marry since Jan. 1.

"How has my marriage impacted upon your marriage or how has it diminished the value of your marriage?" openly gay state Rep. Robert Thompson [D-Manchester,] who married his partner Michael Jacobsen in the Queen City on Jan. 2, asked his colleagues.

Paul and I had the distinct honor of attending Robert and Michael's wedding, but I once again echo the talking point I have shared with several people who have followed this issue in New Hampshire in recent weeks. The majority of Granite Staters are far more concerned about the state's apparent and continued failure to plow the highways than who can get married; Just a hunch from someone who was born and raised in New Hampshire...

On a completely separate note, I began to work on a story for the Guide that will highlight the gay bloggers outside the United States. You are probably familiar with my attempts to highlight the growing Cuban blogosphere over the last several months, but I was finally able to reach Pedro Luis Castro of Fotos desde Cuba on his cell phone earlier tonight. We only spoke for a couple of minutes, but he did say it was cold in Havana--it is partly cloudy and 64 degrees in the Cuban capital as I write this blog. Even though the island is less than 100 miles south of Key West, Cuba is a place that remains intangible to the vast majority of Americans, but it is an island I hope to discover some day soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monserrate saga continues

The Hiram Monserrate saga continues!

The former state Senator and his lawyers plan to return to court on Thursday to assert in a federal lawsuit the decision to expel him from the state Senate violated his civil rights. He remained defiant as he spoke to reporters late last week.

"I will continue to serve," Monserrate said as the Daily News reported. "I will continue to help be a problem solver and deal with the many, many needs [of] my community."

I was literally in a Las Vegas hotel room getting ready for an event when news of Monserrate's expulsion broke. A flurry of tweets, breaking news e-mails and even phone calls ensued, but the 53-8 vote certainly amounted to a collective repudiation of the former police officer's conduct over the last 14 months -- his conviction last October for assaulting his girlfriend, (and the role he played in the Senate coup last June, among many other things.)

One political strategist told Boy in Bushwick last month he thought lawmakers would vote to expel Monserrate
ahead of the budget process so he would not be able to "screw around again." Some gay activists outside New York speculated Monserrate's vote against a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry sparked some lawmakers to support his expulsion. In the end, however, it appears as though the ethically-challenged legislature drew a firm line in the sand: a domestic violence conviction amounts to an unfitness to serve in public office--even in the New York State Senate.

Monserrate will continue to portray himself as a martyr as he fights this decision, but it is time for Albany to move forward from this extremely unfortunate episode. The state's deficit continues to balloon, the economy remains week and gays and lesbians cannot legally marry in New York. The people's business remains far from finished, and the ongoing Monserrate saga should no longer distract from getting it done.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Grand Canyon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is roughly 20 miles outside of Las Vegas, but it may as well be another time and place. One can literally see the valley below from a variety of vantage points along the Scenic Drive, but it was certainly a spiritual experience to off-road through narrow canyons, walk along dry washes, see thousand-old pictographs, watch rock climbers and simply enjoy the silence.

A special thanks to Pink Jeep Tours and guide Chris Brennan for making this amazing trip happen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snapshots of Las Vegas

Here are a few images of my trip to Las Vegas so far...

Similar 'deals' are found throughout the valley.

Stratosphere from Flamingo Road shortly after sunrise on Feb. 10. A storm brought snow to the mountains that surround Las Vegas the night before; and some of them can be seen from the Strip.

Las Vegas at night from my room at Paris

Some good old fashion Vegas kitsch in front of Bally's on Feb. 10.

One of Paris' casinos.

Boy in Bushwick lands in Las Vegas

It's as though Times Square threw up on the desert.

This is the description I texted to my upstairs neighbor earlier today as I walked down the Las Vegas Strip for the first time. Replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, groups of men and women who aggressively hock escort cards to weary tourists and even a sudden downpour are among the many things I encountered during my first few hours in Sin City.

I've been up for nearly 20 hours so I am going to keep this blog short, but here's a video clip of the descent into McCarran International Airport this afternoon.

A particularly friendly cab driver welcomed me to Las Vegas, but I will share his story later...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Key West canine officer stops would-be burglar

The Key West Police Department announced earlier today a canine unit stopped a would-be burglar from breaking into a woman's home early Saturday morning.

Ferro detained a man who a police spokesperson said had tried to break into the Fleming Street house through a sliding glass door. The KWPD said Ferro "moved forward and apprehended the suspect by taking hold of his forearm in his jaws." The department further said the suspect, whom it identified as Jacob Fred Kaiser, 33, of Seattle, tried to fight Ferro, but his partner, KWPD officer Thomas Aglin, commanded him to force the man to the ground.

“Our K-9 Unit is a vital part of an efficient police department,” KWPD acting chief Scott Smith said. “Ferro’s quick response and his level of training were important in apprehending this suspect.”

Kaiser remains in custody in the Monroe County Detention Center, but it goes without saying the Conch Republic will continue to have a lot of fun at his expense.

Monday morning wrap-up: Saints, Palin and Paterson

A broken pipe in the basement caused quite the scene here in Bushwick over the weekend, but a steady stream of news kept this news junkie entertained as he eagerly awaited the return of running (hot) water.

Voulez vous le bon temps rouler! I certainly did not follow each play in the Super Bowl, but the New Orleans Saints' come-from-behind victory against the Indianapolis Colts remains nothing short of breathtaking. This win is surely a shot in the arm for the Crescent City as it continues to regain its footing after Hurricane Katrina. And Americans will undoubtedly continue to rejoice with Who Dat nation in the coming days and weeks.

On a decidedly less festive note, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gave a rousing speech to Tea Partiers in Nashville over the weekend. I am certainly not a Palin fan; nor have I ever described her in favorable terms outside of the fact she looks great for a mother of five and for her appearance on Saturday Night Live alongside Tina Fey. And the steady stream of sound bites of Palin's speech that the Sunday morning talk shows played sparked the predictable tweets.

"With all due respect to Sarah Palin, what the hell does she know about foreign policy?," one read in response to the former Alaska governor's assertion the White House should declare war against Iran. "You can't see Iran from Alaska after all..."

I guess crib notes qualify her to run for president in 2012. Perhaps New York Gov. David Paterson may have some new found time on his hands, however, if rumors of his possible resignation pan out.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Preliminary hearing for gay Puerto Rican teenager's alleged killer continues

As the preliminary hearing of the man who allegedly decapitated and dismembered Jorge Steven López Mercado continues in a Puerto Rico court room, details about the murdered teenager's life continue to emerge.

David José Medina Quiñones told the court on Tuesday he and López went to a Caguas street to prostitute themselves in the hours before Juan José Martínez Matos allegedly murdered the gay teenager. Martínez reportedly said he killed López after he discovered he was a man. And his lawyers tried to insinuate in court yesterday the teenager had agreed to have sex in exchange for drugs. There is obviously nothing that can ever justify this horrendous murder, and Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s made this point explicitly clear in a blog he posted earlier this morning.

“We cannot allow anyone to indict a victim who is no longer alive and can no longer defend himself,” he wrote. “We cannot forget there was a criminal who committed this hate crime: Juan Martínez Matos.”

Irregardless of whether López prostituted himself or took drugs, the fact remains a brutal crime took place. His family and friends have suffered a tremendous and entirely unnecessary loss. And they deserve nothing less than full justice under the law.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

California Congressman evokes bathrooms, showers and hermaphrodites to defend Don't Ask, Don't Tell

As the debate over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continues on Capitol Hill, Congressman Duncan Hunter [R-Calif.]’s dependence upon arcane homophobic stereotypes during an interview with National Public Radio is nothing more than an utterly desperate attempt to defend a failed policy.

“It’s not the time to do it,” he told Melissa Block yesterday afternoon. “I think it’s—the military is not civilian life. And I think the folks who have been in the military that have been in these very close situations with each other, there has to be a special bond there. And I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gay and lesbians.”

I truly wish I could make this you know what up, but the failed presidential candidate’s defense of DADT became even more foolish as he highlighted the ‘young kids’ who comprise the majority of those who enlist in the military.

“They usually have more conservative families, more conservative backgrounds and I think that it would go against their principles and it would frankly make everybody a little bit uneasy to be in these close situations, how you go into combat, you know, the shower situation, the bathroom situation, just, you know, very mundane details—things that we have men and women separated, you know, because we don’t want to have that sexual distraction,” Duncan rather nervously said.

The shower situation? The bathroom situation? Sexual distraction? Again, you truly can’t make this you know what up, but Congressman Joe Sestak [D-Pa.,] who is a retired Navy admiral, pointed out to Brian Lehrer earlier this morning the average age of the 5,000 sailors he commanded on an aircraft carrier were 19 and a half.

“That generation doesn’t have concerns over serving with or alongside a gay sailor,” he said.

Sestak also responded directly to Duncan.

“When you’re out there in a fox hole and people are shootin’ at ya, you’re not concerned whether the person next to you is anything but good—and these sailors are good,” he said.

There you have it…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haiti should not fade from the headlines

Nearly three weeks after an earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, a simple tweet provided an all too powerful reminder the devastated country should not fade from the headlines.

Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor and publisher of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Times, highlighted the plight of reporters in his homeland in a blog the Committee to Protect Journalists posted on its Web site. The first sentence provides an all too blunt assessment of the reality on the ground for Haitian journalists and the vast majority of their countrymen.

"The earthquake that rocked Haiti didn't spare anyone, including the media," Pierre-Pierre wrote.

An accompanying caption to describe Reuters' photographer Eliana Aponte's pictures paints an disturbingly ironic juxtaposition.

"Foreign journalists, seen here working in Port-au-Prince, have flooded into Haiti after the earthquake, but the local media is in tatters," it read.

Mandalit del Barco from NPR just discussed the arrest of 10 American missionaries along the Dominican-Haitian border late Friday for allegedly trying to take orphans out of the country during a live shot from Port-au-Prince. Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams and other anchors, however, have returned to their cushy Manhattan studios to cover the story from much more comfortable surroundings. The Haiti earthquake remains the third most popular "hot topic" on, but the only other item on its home page as of this writing was a video clip headlined "Haiti food lines for women only" placed between a report on a woman's missing sister and the Toyota recall.

Anderson Cooper himself lamented to the New York Times more than a week ago the fact people would soon lose interest in this story. Port-au-Prince and its environs, which are roughly a two hour flight from Miami, remains in ruins. The vast majority of their inhabitants continue to endure unimaginable suffering, but partisan Washington battles, Grammy fashions and even the upcoming Super Bowl are among the stories that have sadly begun to push the earthquake victims' plight from the headlines.

The Haitian people deserve far better.