What's on My Tombstone, and Why

On my tombstone, which awaits me at the Trinity Church nondenominational cemetery at 155th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, I had inscribed the last words of Daniel Pearl.
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On January 21, the New York Times, the newspaper of record, recalled the killing of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by Pakistani terrorists nine years ago. With video cameras running, the terrorists slit Daniel Pearl's throat and displayed his severed head like a trophy. The Times reported, "More than a dozen of the militants [why not call them Islamist terrorists?] involved in his murder remain at large, a testament to the lack of will by Pakistani authorities to prosecute the cases, according to a report released Thursday."

The Times article further reported,

Some of the men who are known to have played a role in the death of Mr. Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, committed other terrorist acts in Pakistan including an attack on a hotel in Karachi in which 11 French engineers were killed and the attempted assassination of the former president Pervez Musharaf, the report says.

The United States, France and Israel ought to form a special unit devoted to running each of these terrorist murders down and target them for execution. The Israeli Mossad did exactly that with the Munich murderers of the Israeli Olympic team killed in Munich in 1972.

On my tombstone, which awaits me at the Trinity Church nondenominational cemetery at 155th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, I had inscribed the last words of Daniel Pearl -- uttered at his publicly viewed murder -- which were, "My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish." I believe those words should be part of the annual services on the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur, and should be repeated by the congregants.

The Times also reported on the current status of the American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, now in Yemen "working with al-Qaeda's Arabian branch to plot terrorist attacks, and the Obama administration has authorized his targeted killing." Three cheers for President Obama.


In his January 19 "State of the City" speech, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he had asked me to help in the city's effort to control rising pension costs for its municipal workforce, which is currently consists of about 300,000 workers. The mayor described the crushing pension burden on the city's budget, stating,

City workers deserve a safe and secure retirement, but right now, they receive retirement benefits that are far more generous than those received by most workers in the private sector - and that provide for a much earlier retirement age. It would be great if we could continue to afford such generous benefits, but we can't.

He followed up by mentioning my role.

In the weeks ahead, we will make pension reform our number one priority in Albany. And today, I'm glad to announce that a great New Yorker has agreed to take up our cause: Mayor Ed Koch. Last year, he formed a group - New York Uprising - that convinced a majority in both houses, and Governor Cuomo, to pledge their support for redistricting reform, something I strongly support, too. This year, he'll expand his crusade and if you know Ed, he won't do it quietly. Thanks, Ed. Working with Ed and our partners in State government, we will work to pass several basic reforms to bring our pension system into the 21st century.

Whatever I can do to assist the Mayor in any capacity, I will. Every New Yorker has an obligation to help in any way he or she can to give something back to this great city that has given those who live here the chance to rise based on their talents. New Yorkers gave me the opportunity to preside over the city as Mayor for 12 years, and I am forever in their debt.

My role in this matter of pension costs is primarily educational. I have no authority to negotiate with the state legislators or the Governor, who have the authority to and have in the past exercised that authority to increase the benefits, primarily pension increases, to city workers. At the same time they have not paid a single dollar of those costs, instead mandating the city to pay them. The Mayor's State of the City laid out the major relief required. He said,

The third piece of our pension reforms would overturn the State law that prohibits the City from negotiating pension as part of the collective bargaining process. Pension and health care benefits are a substantial part of a City employee's compensation, and so it only makes sense they should be part of the collective bargaining process. Right now, State elected officials are setting pension benefits for City workers, and sticking another group - city taxpayers - with the bill. Again, our message to Albany is: we'll pay the bills, but let us get better prices. And the only way we will be able to afford raises for City workers in the future is if we can find some savings in our pension and health care bills. That is not a negotiating stance. It is reality.

If they accept my invitation, I will meet with those involved and discuss how to reduce the costs to the city and its taxpayers. We are, as are all of the states and most of the cities in our great nation, in difficult financial times, and we have to work together to find just solutions to those problems. Whatever I can contribute to that goal, I am prepared to do and thank the Mayor for allowing me to be a part of the process.


Last week the President held a state dinner for the president of the people's Republic of China, Hu Jintao. It was described everywhere as the hottest ticket in town. Yet, of the four top Congressional leaders, only one, Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, attended. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stayed away. Their nominal excuses for not attending were weak and indicate a boycott was their aim. The world knows that many Asians react very strongly to loss of face, which certainly includes discourtesy. It makes no sense to be rude to the leader of the country now in second place in the world's economy, recently surpassing Japan, and the country that buys 25 percent of our U.S. Treasury notes used to finance our national debt.

We have legitimate grievances against the policies and actions of the Chinese government, many of which are the result of our own failure to negotiate equitable economic agreements. We have allowed them huge entry into our markets and they have not reciprocated, so that the balance of trade is now heavily in favor of China, the 10-month trade imbalance between China and the U.S. being $227 billion through October 2010. We sell them our technology, e.g., General Motors gave them a license to produce Cadillacs. Their auto workers get somewhere in the vicinity of $1.50 an hour, while ours get between $15 and $26 an hour. Recently, General Electric entered into an arrangement that will permit the Chinese to make GE's airplane engines. Worse still, what intellectual properties they don't buy, their companies steal and pay no royalties.

Nevertheless, it is shortsighted for U.S. government leaders to boycott a state dinner authorized by the President at the White House. More than shortsighted, it is childish and fuels an enmity that isn't helpful to us. Of course, China should be challenged with better negotiations on our part and presenting our case forcefully at every venue. But politeness, civility and shaking hands are not imprimaturs of agreement. They are simply social graces and should be observed.

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