David Storobin and Charles Barron: Peas in a Pod
JURASSIC: [Gatemouth said Storobin] "is almost a Russian Al Sharpton, glorifying the primacy of identity politics, saying that a candidate’s being Russian is far more important than trivial concerns "
Again, your interpretation shows bias to the point of outright lying. The article didn't glorify identity politics. Instead, it described the fact that when someone is the first ever candidate for a particular office, the community tends to rally around him. This was true with, say, President John Kennedy and the Irish community.
The article doesn't seem to pass judgment. Instead, it describes a phenomenon that is very true and has been held true for every immigrant group since voting started.
The first ever candidate of a particular ethnic group wins the overwhelming majority of his co-ethnic vote. This may be good or this may be bad, but historically, this is accurate.
If you want to attack Republicans, you are welcome to do so. But the way you are going about it is so blatantly dishonest that you are merely discrediting yourself and nobody pays attention to the point you are trying to raise.
You are really not helping the Democrats by making your side look like liars who spin things in the most dishonest way just to win an election.”
Jurassic and I have a difference of opinion.
He thinks I am distorting Storobin’s article, “New York Dems Divide and Conquer Conservative Immigrant Group.”.
I think I am stripping away the camouflage and exposing the article’s essential core (and possibly Storobin’s).
I understand that identity politics is a NYC fact of life, and must be paid the deference to which facts of life are due, and while I’ve sometimes endorsed members of one racial group for office in a constituency where a different group is the majority, I do think that, all things being equal, ensuring that different groups with different interests have a seat at the table, and that our government generally reflects its population, is a good thing. In a race between two equally qualified candidates in a seat with a Latino majority, I’m inclined to give the edge to a Latino.
And upon the evidence of his article, Storobin falls into that category.
Like Barron, Storobin builds his case partially by citing undeniable facts and harping on the very real injustices they embody. Like Barron, Storbin then combines these facts with half truths, myths, fantasies, distortions, rumors and outright lies to spin a paranoid and all encompassing tale of the evil “Man.”
I will admit there are some essential differences. As per usual in his writing, Storobin always first gets his caveats in a row to present a neutral veneer of academic objectivity before going off the deep end, while Barron seldom bothers.
Secondly, Barron seems to believe his delusional all-encompassing worldview, while to some extent, Storobin is willing to modify it to fit the needs of a specific partisan agenda which really has little to do with the Russian community.
So, let’s go to the video tape.
Does Storobin engage in “glorifying the primacy of identity politics, saying that a candidate’s being Russian is far more important than trivial concerns.”
STOROBIN: Why would Russians who are registered Democrats vote for a Republican? Displaying total ignorance of not just the Russian community, but of immigrants in general, they mistakenly believed that Russians would care about abortion, taxation and "community outreach" more than they cared about electing one of their own.
Jurassic contends I misconstrue Storobin’s point, that the article “didn't glorify identity politics. Instead, it described the fact that when someone is the first ever candidate for a particular office, the community tends to rally around him. This was true with, say, President John Kennedy and the Irish community.”
I will admit that, for a few paragraphs, the article strives for such an appearance, but it soon abandons it for a Barron type summation of indignities visited upon US by THE MAN.
He starts building his case by citing some facts which are undeniably close to the truth, even if described in hyperbolic terms:
STOROBIN: “But in the early 2002, a political assault struck the Russian-American community at the hands of the Democratic Party.
I won’t quibble with much here. Although other racial, ethnic and other communities of interest have suffered similar indignities, prior to the Russian community, as well as in the same reapportionment map, and such communities will surely suffer again in the future, the specific Russian community of which Mr. Storobin speaks was divided, and the division was accomplished with the purpose of benefitting Mr. Recchia.
My major correction here would be to point out that the map Mr. Storobin complains of was drawn by the City reapportionment panel, whose members were appointed by three people: the Mayor (then an enrolled Republican), the Council Speaker (an enrolled Democrat) and the Council Minority Leader (an enrolled Republican), and that between the Mayor and the Minority Leader, a majority of the panel’s members were chosen by Republicans, who obviously acquiesced in the division of the Russian community for concessions elsewhere.
This alone would put the lie to Mr. Storobin’s incendiary title, although I will admit, it actually justifies some of the paranoia expressed in the article. It wasn’t merely that someone was out to get the Russian community, it was more like EVERYONE was out to get the Russian community.
But in this article written to blame the Democrats, and only the Democrats, one would never learn of the Republican role in the Council redistricting. Nor would you learn about the even greater role the Republicans played in dividing Russian-American political power.
STOROBIN: Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay were split between two City Council, three Assembly and three State Senate districts. This ensured that Russians can never be a majority the in the same way that Italians, Irish, American Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and others are majorities in some New York districts.
Storobin is accurate in blaming the Assembly lines entirely on the Democrats. It would be nitpicky to point out that the existing divisions of these districts in the Sheepshead Bay/Brighton Beach area has been pretty much the same since before the arrival of the Russian community, and that in the same general area the black/Latino minority was also divided in a way that diluted their strength, but his essential point is correct.
Ironically, it appears that the area’s one Russian-American elected official, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, is working to keep these lines virtually intact, feeling that dividing the Russian community in this manner will ultimately lead to greater representation.
Brook-Krasny may even be right.
Mr. Storobin would have the unwary reader believe that the division of the Sheepshead Bay/Brighton area in the State Senate is also the work of the Democrats.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Unlike the Assembly lines, the unbelievably convoluted lines for Senate Districts 22, 23, and 27 (which Mr. Storobin now seeks to represent) have no precedent. And Democrats screamed bloody murder about them (and proposed alternative lines which would have left the Russian community far less divided).
The purpose of the shockingly brazen Republican Senate map, which is now law, was to gerrymander an incumbent Democrat out of his seat and create a safe seat for a Republican Councilman from Bay Ridge, Marty Golden. Thanks to this plan Councilman Golden (as he was then) is now Senator Golden.
In addition, Senator Golden runs the Brooklyn Republican Party through a sock-puppet named Craig Eaton, who has made Mr. Storobin his Vice Chair.
In defense of the Republicans, I will note that unlike the Council plan they acquiesced in, the intent of the Senate plan was not to divide the Russians, but to unite far flung communities of white Christians. The detrimental impact of the plan upon the Russian community wasn’t even an afterthought for the GOP mapmakers.
I’m not sure one can call this an improvement.
Storobin has further complaints about the Republican Senate map which he unfathomably has blamed on the Democrats.
STOROBIN: In addition, Russian areas were often placed together with neighborhoods whose needs are vastly different from that of the Russian community, usually poor housing projects. Thus, Senator Diane Savino's district consists of Coney Island and Staten Island projects, together with the Russian South Beach and West 8th Street buildings in Brooklyn.
In fairness, though Savino’s district is an atrocity (entirely created by Republicans), one cannot blame the GOP for uniting West 8th Street with the rest of Coney Island. They are right next to each other. I doubt there is a single map at any level of government which hasn’t combined them together since those building were all constructed.
Further, many of those Coney Island projects contain a significant number of Russian-Americans (proving that the Russian-American community is far more tolerant of sharing living space with African-Americans than Storobin is of sharing poltical space with them).
All the foregoing portrays Storobin as a dedicated partisan, willing to ignore or distort the facts, but does not show him to be much of a racial arsonist.
But there is more:
STOROBIN: [The Russians’] power in Savino's district is so miniscule that she openly called the views of Russian-Americans "absurd" in a recent interview in the Staten Island Advance, knowing that her Russian constituents are too outnumbered to do anything about the insult during the next election.
This is where the article really degenerates into Barronism.
Storobin does not link the article with the “offending” quote, but I will.
The article is called “Many Russians on Staten Island Aligning With Republicans.”
The article notes that the newly formed Citizens Magazine Business Club, a confederation of more than 50 Russian-owned businesses in Staten Island and Brooklyn, has aligned itself with the Molinari Republican Club in Staten Island in an effort to increase the Russian community's political and economic clout.
A businessman named Arkadiy Fridman is quoted:
"We decided we had to support this club…They are very close to our political and business vision."
In the wake of the national GOP's big wins this year, when the party took back control of the House, Republicans everywhere are more confident that their bedrock message of smaller government and lower taxes will resonate with American voters.
"It's too socialistic…It's very painful for us to see."
The article then goes on to note:
The Democrats' national losses were seen as a rejection of President Barack Obama's health care reform law and other initiatives that opponents say went too far in pushing government control on Americans.
The Big Brother approach reminds Fridman too much of what he left behind in the former Soviet Union.
Fridman then opines:
At the end of the article a Democrat is finally allowed to respond.
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) said she understands the Russian aversion to anything that looks like big government, but thinks the criticism of the Democratic Party is off-base.
There you have it.
Storobin’s description of what Senator Savino said about Russians, based on one single word in an article he refused to link, verges upon the definition of false light libel, and might even be actionable if the Senator were not a public figure.
Storobin ought to be ashamed himself.
In building his theory of an all encompassing Democratic Party conspiracy against the Russian community, Storobin goes on to cite the extortionary efforts of (as he was then) State Senator Carl Kruger, saying that Kruger specifically targeted the Russian community in a campaign of extortion.
I do not want to minimize the crimes of Kruger, but extortion and Kruger have gone hand in hand for a long time before someone got him to publicly admit to it.
I link here a copy of a court decision concerning an indictment where it was charged that, in 1978 Community Board 18 member (as he was then) Kruger attempted to use his position to extort a builder named David Karmi, who on upon and belief, was probably not a Russian American. The criminal complaint Kruger pled guilty to earlier this month includes allegation of extortion against people named Rosen, Aquino and Kalish, as well as developer Bruce Ratner and an Albany based lobbying firm, among numerous others. Only a minority of the victims appear to be Russian-Americans.
I suppose it is possible that, given the large numbers of Russian-Americans in his district, Kruger may have disproportionately targeted Russian-Americans for extortion, but what is clear even from even a casual read of the indictment is how lacking in prejudice Kruger was as long as the money was green.
Storobin’s narrative then goes from Kruger to unsubstantiated anecdotes of systematic discrimination (much in the manner of Charles Barron):
STOROBIN: Even the most well-known and politically-connected Russian businessmen find it impossible to address their concerns. A Russian businessman, whom I consider to be a friend, recently submitted the lowest bid for his services, and thus should have been awarded a government contract. By law, the contract must go to the business that is willing to work for the least amount of money.
Did this alleged businessman go to the District Attorney? Did he go to the press? Did he even go to the Russian language media with his complaint?
Where is the evidence that this ever happened?
It all sort of reminds me of Charles Barron’s big lie about Jimmy Carter.
We are supposed to believe Storobin on faith, when it seems likely that a crime may have been committed.
The article then descends from unsubstantiated anecdote to pure Barron style racial rabble-rousing:
STOROBIN: Another very successful Russian-American businessman remarked, "To them, we are nothing."
Sorry Jurassic, but I stand by what I said.
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