Posts Tagged ‘Michael Sussman’

Worship of Money Trumps Morality

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

An essay written and published more than 90 years ago explains a lot about the current competition for casino sites in the Hudson Valley. Titled “The Mysticism of Money,” the essay was written by Harold Loeb, whose uncles (the Guggenheim brothers) may well be described as the Koch brothers of their day. 

In 1914 one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history occurred at a West Virginia coal mine owned by the Guggenheim family. Between 183 and 186 workers were killed. The explosion and deaths led to widespread unionization in the mines and prompted legislative safety and labor reforms. The Guggenheims held major interests in mining all over the world. Their three-fold strategy, according to the Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, “was first, always go in for the big development when the business barometer is low; second, always use the cheap labor and raw materials of undeveloped countries to depress your own country’s industries, to force its wages and prices down until they are so cheap you can afford to buy them up and integrate them into your own monopoly; and third, to own everything from mine mouth to finished product.”

In his essay Loeb argues that the “mysticism of money” has assumed the role of religion in the United States. Among his observations:

                “Money has become the measuring staff of all values and the goal and reward of all efforts conventionally accepted as proper.” Thus it is entirely proper for casino developers and Orange County elected officials to stick a knife into the backs of people in neighboring counties—especially Sullivan—who had pinned their hopes for much-needed economic revival on having one or more casinos built there. 

Numerous resort hotels once thrived in Sullivan and some of the old properties seem like perfect locations for a Las Vegas or Atlantic City style casino resort hotel. But when there is money to be had, concepts such as loving thy neighbor or doing unto others as you would have them do unto you are tossed aside.

“The validity of the money standard and the intrinsic merit of money making are accepted on faith, extra-intellectually. One does not question them; the rash interlocutor who seeks to know why the banker continues to augment his unspendable wealth is catalogued as slightly touched…” The rash interlocutor today is one who dares raise doubts in the face of promises of financial rewards dangled before proposed host communities. Front-page headlines herald “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” “More money for cops, schools.” Ignored is the experience of other communities previously enticed by similar promises. Former U.S. Congressman Robert H. Steele of Connecticut visited Tuxedo June 26 to explain how his community was transformed for the worse by the casinos.  By then, however, Town of Tuxedo officials had already hastily voted their approval of the Sterling Forest Resort Casino.

Genting (the Malaysian-based company with major interests in casinos all over the world) had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars—“no strings attached”—to the Tuxedo public schools. But if they really wanted to make a no-strings-attached gift they would have given the money to a hard-up school district in Sullivan County as a goodwill gesture. One would probably be deemed “slightly touched” for making a suggestion to that effect, as would one who suggests that some of the money expected soon to be flowing into Orange County be used to help our neighbors in Sullivan. 

“The casinos were never intended for our county, one of the fastest growing in NY State,” notes attorney Michael Sussman of Goshen, who will host a public meeting on Thursday, July 10, at Town of Wallkill Town Hall, Tower Drive, Middletown. (Tower Road is off route 211 across from the entrance to Galleria Mall.) The meeting is co-sponsored by Democratic Alliance and casiNO-Orange. “We strongly believe casinos should be opened in Sullivan and Western Ulster County,” says Sussman, “economically depressed areas with excellent sites [Concord and Nevele hotels].” Residents of all three counties are invited to attend and participate.

Michael can be reached at


Look What They Call ‘Independent’

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

What’s wrong with this sentence, which appeared the other day in a daily newspaper in our region? “The independent board formed last month to sell Orange County’s nursing home is expected to solicit offers from prospective buyers next week and have bids by mid-June.” If you haven’t figured it out yet the answer appears in the next sentence: “Meeting for the first time Monday since being appointed by County Executive Steve Neuhaus and legislative leaders, the six volunteers initially named to the Orange Valley View Development Corporation picked a seventh member and the officers for their board, as the attorney advising them laid out a rapid timetable for their work.”

A more accurate way to put it would be, “The bunch of toadies appointed to solicit bids to sell the 360-bed Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation to a private, for-profit corporation is working fast because this thing stinks to high heaven and everyone in Orange County knows it.”

A bit later in the article we learn that the attorney doing the advising (also appointed by Neuhaus) is affiliated with the Harris Beach law firm, the same people hired by the county to set up the local development corporation (LDC). The stench gets even worse as readers are informed that the board’s inaugural meeting was open to the public, “except for a private session” during which the members chose officers and spoke with attorney Shawn Griffin of Harris Beach. Oh, and by the way, any future discussions about purchase offers “are expected to take place behind closed doors.”

Only one sentence mentioned perhaps the most important point: “Unless a lawsuit brought by privatization opponents invalidates the move, the LDC board can decide which bidder buys and takes over the operation of Valley View without further action by the Legislature.” That lawsuit, filed by Michael Sussman on behalf of Valley View residents, employees, not to mention most people in Orange County, has yet to be decided. But the last time the county legislators tangled with Sussman they didn’t do so hot. Our local Republicans, taking a cue from their counterparts at higher levels of government, had gerrymandered a couple of districts so as to ensure that people of color would not constitute the majority of voters. They ended up with egg on their lily-white faces after Sussman got through with them.

I hope that wolf-in-sheep’s clothing Neuhaus, who had pledged not to sell Valley View during his election campaign, and the cowardly weasels among the Republican majority in the county legislature (with the notable exception of Mike Anagnostakis) meet a similar fate.  Anagnostakis deserves special recognition for his courageous and principled stand on this issue.  As for the rest, what else can you call them but cowardly after they set up an LDC to do the deed and pretend it is independent when it is anything but? And just to put the stinko icing on the cake, here is the last paragraph of the news article in its entirety: “Griffin told the Times Herald-Record that the board will likely make public the names of all bidders — but not the prices they are offering — once the solicitation period ends. The identity and price of the winning bidder would be released once the county and buyer have signed a sale contract, he said.”

In other words, they will meet in secret, make their decision in secret, and only tell the public about it after the contract has been signed. I guess that’s one way to be independent: independent of public oversight or scrutiny. 

Michael can be reached at








Sad News on Top of Bad

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Is it just me or are we being inundated by an unusually large amount of bad news lately? Trayvon Martin….the murderous attack on Jewish schoolchildren in France….the ongoing carnage in Syria….escalating oil and gas prices…the right-wing legislative assault on women’s healthcare….Need I go on?

And speaking of healthcare: Will the Supreme Court really strike down the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) so insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and for-profit healthcare institutions and providers can go back to doing “business as usual”? (Business as usual: denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and sons and daughters above age 21;  restoring the “donut hole” so prescription drug costs will soar for many people with chronic diseases; and millions of Americans having to go without care because they can’t afford it.)

Closer to home, we see Orange County political officials planning to sell Valley View (the county nursing home renowned for providing quality care) to a private, for-profit business. At the same time, Orange County Executive Ed Diana is still pushing for construction of a new, multimillion dollar government office building rather than repair the existing storm-damaged facility in Goshen. I happen to agree with those who think the building is a funny-looking eyesore rather than a historic landmark and/or work of art….but that is beside the point. As lawn signs around the county proclaim: Just fix it!

And the Valley View situation is a reflection of the ongoing underfunding of public health at all levels of government. An analysis released by Trust for America’s Health, a think tank supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that federal funding for public health has been “insufficient” for the past six years. At the same time, public health budgets at the state and local levels have been cut at drastic rates.  A recent study conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials found significant cuts to programs, workforce and budgets at local health departments around the country. Since 2008, those departments have lost a total of 34,400 jobs due to layoffs and attrition. Combined state and local public health job losses total 49,310 since 2008.

Also closer to home, Governor Cuomo has refused to order an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Lembhard by police in Newburgh. Upon learning of the governor’s decision, Michael Sussman, attorney for the Lembhard family, said, “Today is a sad day and a day of a missed opportunity.  The governor has chosen not to appoint a special prosecutor…. The result is that our community must trust the results of an investigation conducted by an agency, the Orange County DA’s office, with very close ties to the City of Newburgh Police Department, which relies on that department for many of its cases and which has every institutional interest in exonerating that department and its members in this and every other case.”

Sussman, who represented the family of D.J. Henry, the Pace College quarterback shot and killed by police in Westchester in October 2010, said “Michael’s death brings to mind other great tragedies which have affected too many families.” Nevertheless, he urged family members and witnesses to cooperate with the local investigation and he called on Newburgh residents to use “peaceful and non-violent means to demonstrate their profound anger at Michael’s death. Only by the exercise of restraint and respect for human life can we honor the fallen.

“The City of Newburgh, said Sussman, should hire an independent law firm to investigate and determine whether the officers who killed Lembhard violated departmental rules and regulations “and, if so, should take disciplinary measures….in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the due process rights of the officers.” Lemnhard’s family, he noted, “is deeply angry and frustrated at the loss of Michael…. Our imperative as their brothers and sisters and our responsibility as residents of this county remains to see that justice is done….We will spare no resource toward that objective.”

Sussman heads up the Orange County Democratic Alliance (, which is active on a number of fronts to make life in our county better for all of its residents. And for those interested, Occupy Orange will meet Thursday, March 29, at 6:30 theInteractive Museum, 23 Center St., Middletown. Organizers request that you bring “a positive spirit, and your ideas about what we can accomplish together.” Maybe some good news will emerge as a result of their activities.

Michael can be reached at












From Newburgh to New Canaan

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

Sometimes the headline tells you all you need to know:  HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR, for example, or FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. Tuesday there was one in the Times Herald-Record but you may have missed it because it was positioned at the bottom of a page in the business section:  “BofA will ax 30,000 jobs to calm investors.” This is the same Bank of America that benefited from the massive Wall Street bailout funded by the tax-paying citizens of this country in 2008.

According to the article, “the nation’s largest bank…is facing huge liabilities over soured mortgage investments and concerns over whether it has enough capital to withstand more financial shocks.”  Couldn’t they have thought of a better way to allay the anxiety of shareholders before firing 10 percent of the workforce?  Not according to the bank:  “The bank said it hopes the cuts and other measures will result in $5 billion in annual savings by 2014. The bank has already cut 6,000 jobs this year. The bank also said it would look for cost savings at its other businesses in a six-month review that will begin next month.”  In other words, people who work at those “other businesses” are also in danger of losing their jobs soon in order to “calm investors.”  

What’s wrong with this picture?

In an email sent last Friday to members of the Orange County Democratic Alliance (DA), Michael Sussman wrote, “This is our time to start reaching out and discussing the inequities of our economic system and who is being injured.” Sussman will be one of the featured speakers Sunday, September 18, at a Rally for Economic Justice in New Canaan, Connecticut. Major organizer of the rally is Bennett Weiss of Newburgh, who mentioned the idea on a frigid Sunday afternoon in January—the day Nan Hayworth celebrated her election to Congress at an inauguration in Middletown.  As Hayworth spoke inside about “reining in government” and repealing health care reform, Sussman, Weiss, and other DA members protested outside.  

Later, within the warm confines of the Colonial Diner, Weiss explained why he chose New Canaan as the site for a projected rally for economic justice. He noted that New Canaan is home to many of the beneficiaries of the recently extended “Bush tax cuts” on the wealthy….you know, the ones who are supposedly creating new jobs thanks to the cuts. The median price of a home listed for sale in New Canaan is over $2 million.

At the time of the last census the racial makeup of the town was 95 percent white, one percent African American, two percent Asian, and less than two percent Hispanic or Latino of any race. Among the notables who live in New Canaan are Glenn Beck, right-wing broadcaster, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, and David Neeleman, founder of Jet Blue Airways. As of November 4, 2008, there were 12,813 active voters in New Canaan:  6,341 Republicans, 2,732 Democrats, 3,716 unaffiliated voters, and 24 voters registered with other parties.  

Weiss. tongue ensconced firmly in cheek, calls on Orange County residents to “make the hajj (schlep) to the lush leafy hills of that enclave for the complacent rich” on Sunday.  New Canaan, he says, “will be transformed into a Mecca for us, the outraged, unwashed and mansion-less horde… the lower 98 percent if you will.”

Speakers at the rally will “connect the dots between extreme disparity of wealth and our most pressing challenges.” In addition to Sussman, speakers include Richard Duffee and Ralph Maurer of  the Connecticut Green Party,  Chuck Bell of No War Westchester, Trudy Goldberg of the National Jobs for All Coalition, Hector Lopez of the Puerto Rico Independence Committee, Juanita Lewis of Community Voices Heard, and Chris Hutchinson of the American Socialist Party. Interspersed throughout the program will be “some brilliant topical poetry and songs,” says Weiss, who adds that the rally will be followed by a march and a picnic “at beautiful Mead Park.”

“It’s a big trip and great hassle to get there,” admits Weiss, but he is hoping a few “Pilgrims” from Orange County will find the effort worthwhile.  I wish him luck. We need headlines about jobs saved and jobs created, not about jobs lost to “calm investors.”  

Michael can be reached at