Monday, November 12, 2007

Racist housing body in Maryland

Two members of a county housing commission have resigned after applicants to fill vacant slots on the panel were rejected by a county administrator because they are not minorities. Roger D. Luchs sent his resignation to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) on Oct. 16, followed by William ``Bill" Witham, whose resignation was sent Tuesday. Both men, former members of the county's Landlord-Tenant Commission, cited their concerns over discrimination in filling the positions by the county's housing director, Richard Y. Nelson Jr.

The 15-member Landlord-tenant Commission, composed of volunteers, hears and settles disputes between landlords and tenants when the cases cannot be resolved by the county's Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs. Following an October commission meeting, a panel of commissioners involved in interviewing three applicants for vacant seats was notified that an internal memo, dated Oct. 1, from Nelson to the Landlord?Tenant Office and one of Leggett's special assistants said the applicants - two women and one man - were unacceptable because of their race. All three are white.

``It's wrong on a couple of levels," said Witham. ``First, you're circumventing the commission's authority. Why send candidates to us if the director has the power to throw them out? We're supposed to be a color-blind county, and this slaps of blatant discrimination." Witham said he has raised his concerns with County Council members and members of Leggett's staff. ``But it seems to be falling on deaf ears," he said. ``I think it's a problem that needs to be addressed and not brushed under the rug."

But what Luchs and Witham call discrimination, Nelson said, is the administration's goal of more diversity. ``This is clearly one commission in which we've been trying to broaden the pool of candidates," Nelson told The Gazette. On Tuesday, Nelson released the Oct. 1 memo. ``Six candidates submitted applications and I have received some recommendations from the nominating committee," Nelson writes. ``However, I am unwilling to forward those recommendations to the County Executive. If these candidates were appointed, it would result in the commission having five tenants, all white. I feel that Montgomery County needs to have minority representation, generally, on the Commission, but particularly minority tenant representatives."

The commission's 15 members are separated into three categories: landlord, tenant and at-large members who are neither landlords nor tenants. Each group has four members and an alternate. In the landlord category, there is one white man, two white women and a black woman. Luchs' resignation leaves a vacancy there. In the tenant category, there are two while women; a black woman who left the county was replaced by a white woman. There are two openings for tenants. In the at-large category there are a Hispanic woman, a black man and a black woman and a white woman. Witham's resignation leaves a vacancy.

Nelson said the Oct. 1 memo does not say the candidates were rejected - noting that one of the original candidates has since been chosen to fill a vacancy - but that the group was not diverse. ``I work for Mr. Leggett, and he has stated that this is an objective of his to open all portions of county government to as many different ethnic groups as we can," Nelson said. Nelson said he did not consult Leggett or his aides before distributing the memo.

Asked about the resignations and the commissioners' concerns, Leggett said, ``My general overall philosophy has been for diversity in county government, especially in this area on this particular commission where there is a disproportionate number of minority renters in the county." Nelson said his office does not keep track of the racial makeup of the county's renters.

On Tuesday afternoon, Michael Denney, administrator of the Landlord-Tenant Affairs Office, confirmed both resignation letters. Denney, a liaison between the office and the commission, said he was unaware at the time that some of the applicants had been rejected. ``I think one part of things was the lack of communication between the director and the commission. There was a lack of communication about what direction the administration was going for the commission was not fully relayed to the commission members," he said.

After applying for the commission through the executive's office, applicants are screened, then recommended for appointment by the executive. The candidates interview with a panel of existing commissioners who forward their recommendations to Denney, who relays them to Nelson. After Nelson, the applicants' names are sent back to Leggett, who forwards them to the County Council for final approval. Luchs, an attorney practicing in Washington, spent almost eight years on the commission. Witham was in his first term on the commission.


Red, green lights to be banned?

Committee proposal says colored Christmas twinklers too religious

A special task force in a Colorado city has recommended banning red and green lights at the Christmas holiday because they fall among the items that are too religious for the city to sponsor. "Some symbols, even though the Supreme Court has declared that in many contexts they are secular symbols, often still send a message to some members of the community that they and their traditions are not valued and not wanted. We don't want to send that message," Seth Anthony, a spokesman for the committee, told the Fort Collins, Colo., Coloradoan. He said the recommended language does not specifically address Christmas trees by name, but the consensus was that they would not fall within acceptable decorations.

What will be allowed are white lights and "secular" symbols not associated "with any particular holiday" such as icicles, unadorned greenery and snowflakes, the task force said.

The group was made up of members of the city's business and religious communities as well as representatives from some community groups. Members met for months to review the existing holiday display policy, which allowed white as well as multi-colored lights and wreaths and garlands. In previous years, there also was a Christmas tree at the city's Oak Street Plaza. A vote on the proposal will be coming up before the city council on Nov. 20, officials said. "As far as I'm concerned, the group ended up in a very fair place in which primarily secular symbols will be used on city property," task force member Saul Hopper told the newspaper.

Anthony told WND that there actually would be colored lights allowed. "Colored lights would be allowed as part of holiday display inside city buildings, and as part of the multicultural display at the museum. Our recommendations allow wide latitude as far as what can be included in those displays, which are the displays the public sees and interacts with the most," he said.

However, a copy of the actual proposal said for city building exteriors, "white lights" are allowed, and for city building interior common areas, such as lobbies, hallways and conference rooms, administrators should follow the guidelines that include allowances for "snowflakes, snowmen, snow balls, ice skates, skies, penguins, polar bears, white lights, etc." The new guidelines include no provision for colored lights. The existing holiday display rules were adopted in 2006 after a rabbi requested that the city display a menorah.

The only apparent exception to the completely secular rule would be at the Fort Collins Museum, where a "multicultural display" of symbols and objects would be collected to represent Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas among others.

"I expect criticism from people who feel like we are taking Christmas away. And I expect we will get criticism from people who think educational display endorses religions," Anthony said. "(But) to the extent we can, recognizing that offending no one will be impossible, we want to be inclusive." City officials touted their own efforts. "I am really delighted to see us taking this step," Mayor Doug Hutchinson said when the task force was being assembled. "I think Fort Collins is a great city, and I think great cities are inclusionary."

In a forum for the Coloradoan, outrage was pretty evident. "Let's spend our CHRISTMAS money somewhere that believes in CHRISTMAS!" wrote barbie333. "Where does the 'PC-ization' stop? Maybe if the town leaders realize that we do not live in Boulder (or California)!?" Added "Stick," "No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, he is dead from lack of political correctness and the elves have all been sent to China to make toys." "Seth Anthony says, 'Some symbols, even though the Supreme Court has declared that in many contexts they are secular symbols, often still send a message to some members of the community that they and their traditions are not valued and not wanted. We don't want to send that message.' Guess what, Seth? That's EXACTLY the message you sent me!" added "notpc." "If the city council decided to not acknowledge Christmas on public grounds this year then all city offices should be open for business on Dec. 25th, white lights shining! Don't want to offend anyone by stopping city business for a day to celebrate a holiday not everyone believes in," added Amidon.


The Reclamation of Skid Row

Drive around Los Angeles's Skid Row with Commander Andrew Smith and you can barely go a block without someone's congratulating him on his recent promotion. Such enthusiasm is certainly in order. Over the last year, this tall, high-spirited policeman has achieved what for a long while seemed impossible: a radical reduction of Skid Row's anarchy. What is surprising about Smith's popularity, however, is that his fans are street-wizened drug addicts, alcoholics, and mentally ill vagrants. And in that fact lies a resounding refutation of the untruths that the American Civil Liberties Union and the rest of the homeless industry have used to keep Skid Row in chaos--until now.

For 25 years, the advocates used lawsuits and antipolice propaganda to beat back every effort to restore sanity to Skid Row. They concealed the real causes of homelessness under a false narrative about a callous, profit-mad society that abused the less fortunate. The result: a level of squalor that had no counterpart in the United States. Smith's policing initiatives--grounded in the Broken Windows theory of order maintenance--ended that experiment in engineered anarchy, saving more lives in ten months than most homeless advocates have helped over their careers. The forces of lawlessness are regrouping, however, and Smith's successes may wind up reversed in a renewed attack on the police.

Before Smith's Safer City Initiative began in September 2006, Skid Row's 50 blocks had reached a level of depravity that stunned even longtime observers. Encampments composed of tents and cardboard boxes covered practically every inch of sidewalk. Their 1,500 or so occupants, stretched out in lawn chairs or sprawled on the pavement, injected heroin and smoked crack and marijuana in plain view, day and night. Feces, urine, and drug-resistant bacteria coated the ground. Even drug addicts were amazed at the scene. Fifty-year-old Vicki Williams arrived from Las Vegas in December 2005 with a heavy habit. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing: people getting high on the streets like it was legal," she says. "Down here was like a world of its own. Anything you can imagine I've seen: women walking down the street buck naked, people stabbed in front of me."

The human chaos hid entrenched criminal networks. The biggest heroin gang in downtown Los Angeles operated from the area's west end, using illegal aliens to peddle dope supplied by the Mexican Mafia. Able-bodied dealers sold drugs from wheelchairs and from tents color-coded to signal the wares within. Young Bloods and Crips from Watts's housing projects battled over drug turf and amused themselves by robbing the elderly....

This lawlessness hurt Skid Row's law-abiding residents the most. The area's century-old residential hotels and missions house thousands of senior citizens, non-drug-abusing mentally ill persons, and addicts trying to turn their lives around. "The people we serve are very vulnerable," says Anita Nelson, director of a government-funded nonprofit that rehabilitates and manages single-room-occupancy hotels (SROs). "The elderly and the mentally ill were victimized by the crime and the dealers. When you're afraid to go into the park, you're a prisoner in your 120-square-foot unit." Temptation confronted recovering addicts every time they stepped outside.

With formal controls on behavior almost completely absent, the last vestiges of civility broke down. In 2005, young volunteers for the Union Rescue Mission set out to deliver 4,000 boxes of Christmas food to every SRO in the area. As they tried to navigate the streets, encampment residents cursed them, hurled racial taunts, and mockingly defecated in front of them. The area's intrepid businesses faced constant assault. "We had to fortify the buildings with razor wire and barricade ourselves in," a shrimp processor recalls. "The homeless would take or steal anything." His roll-up door, constantly exposed to bodily fluids, rotted away. In September 2006, the owner of one of the district's landmark businesses, ABC Toys, caught a typical moment on film: a mail carrier reaches through the store's gate to drop off letters, when she notices that the man at her feet is shooting heroin into a prominent vein. She flees in dismay without leaving the mail.

This ugly scene was not the by-product of economic dislocations or of social upheaval; it was the consequence of a destructive ideology that turned a seedy neighborhood for the down-and-out into a hell. Skid Row began as a vital accessory to what was once Los Angeles's thriving heart, decades before the automobile spread the city across hundreds of square miles to the mountains and ocean. Farmland surrounded what is now downtown, requiring workers for the fields, for the adjacent factories that processed the produce, and for the railroad that shipped it out. Skid Row's cheap hotels, saloons, and theaters catered to these transient single males.

Though this low-rent district was located just a few blocks from the elegantly sculpted banks and office buildings of Spring Street and Broadway, the two worlds coexisted in relative peace because public order was maintained. Over the course of the twentieth century, Skid Row's population became older and more disabled by alcoholism, as industrial and agricultural jobs moved elsewhere. The local missions tried to reclaim lives lost to drink, offering a free meal in exchange for attendance at a sermon, but their success rate was never particularly high. Alcoholics congregated on the street in bottle gangs--a group of drinkers who pooled their nickels for booze. Still, if one collapsed at a business's front door, he stood a good chance of getting picked up by the police for public inebriation.

But in the 1960s, laws against public intoxication, vagrancy, and loitering came under attack in court and in the press, and by the 1980s, the enforcement of such public-order statutes had all but ceased. In 1975, approximately 50,000 arrests took place in Los Angeles for public intoxication, more than half of those on Skid Row; in 1985, the entire city generated only 4,000 such arrests. This enforcement halt was not the humanitarian advance that its architects claimed, says Clancy Imislund, the former director of Skid Row's Midnight Mission and an ex-Skid Row alcoholic himself. "The police picked up street drunks for their own protection," he notes. "Sometimes they sent them to a farm north of L.A. for six months. By the 1970s, however, the police started leaving them lying there, where gangs took their money and beat the hell out of them." A 1971 federal law tried to substitute rehabilitation for the policing cycle, but the success rate of federally funded alcoholism services wasn't noticeably better than that of the jails, according to sociologist Ronald Miller.

One further change in the legal landscape paved the way for the chaos that would engulf Skid Row by the century's end. Inspired partly by the then-fashionable belief that mental illness was an artificial construct for oppressing nonconformists, California passed landmark legislation in 1967 that virtually ended the involuntary commitment of the mentally ill. A decade later, hospital professionals were noticing with alarm that patients whom they had no power to hold for long-term treatment were cycling between the streets, jails, and short-term mental wards. By the early 1980s, a new Skid Row population had emerged: drug addicts, overwhelmingly black, often mentally ill, who camped out on the streets. The era of the "homeless" had begun....

In 1999, the doyenne of downtown homeless agitators, Alice Callaghan, picketed the opening of a Skid Row drop-in center providing people with showers, a place to sit or lie down, and various services that would start them on the path to rehabilitation. Callaghan, an ex-nun and ordained Episcopal priest, likened the 24-hour facility to an "internment camp." The problem? A drop-in center reinforces the idea that "anyone still on the street is on the street by choice and not because of a lack of options," she told Mother Jones magazine in 2001. "The language of rehab and programs and community is the velvet glove on a puritanical and punitive fist," she added.

When Police Chief William Bratton took control of the LAPD in late 2002, vowing to clean crime out of Skid Row through the application of Broken Windows policing, the ACLU launched a litigation war to stop him. For the advocates, the stakes had never been higher. A few developers had started converting empty office buildings in adjacent areas of downtown to lofts; the activists seized on this revitalization of Los Angeles's historic core as proof that the evil capitalists were seeking to afflict the poor. In March 2003, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the department's efforts to track down the hundreds of violent parole violators and absconders in Skid Row encampments who were driving up violent crime. And in an even more ambitious lawsuit, Jones v. City of Los Angeles, the ACLU charged that application of the city's ordinance against sleeping or lying on the sidewalk violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The majority of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel agreed in April 2006, and the police halted their mostly desultory efforts to enforce the sidewalk law. The ACLU handed out leaflets on the Jones decision to encampment residents, some of whom waved them tauntingly in police officers' faces. Skid Row got worse than anyone could have imagined.

Enter Andrew Smith. He had become captain of Central Division, the police jurisdiction responsible for Skid Row, in April 2005, determined to "change the culture of chaos," as he put it. Smith had no doubt that the anarchy did not represent an unavoidable consequence of poverty, as the advocates alleged. "People were here because they chose not to conform to ordinary standards of behavior and the laws of the land," he says.

Smith's ambitions required a lot of additional officers. The area represented the "granddaddy of all order maintenance problems," says Chief Bratton. The department's perennial manpower shortage, however, as well as the ongoing litigation over police power, forced Smith to put his plans on hold. Instead, he organized a demonstration project for Main Street, where a homeless colony was strangling a nascent commercial and residential rebirth. Smith assigned existing officers to foot beats, put up security cameras, and started enforcing the narcotics laws and, to a very limited extent, the ordinance against sleeping on the sidewalk. The encampments disappeared; legitimate street life arose in its place.

Much more here

Australia: Law 'turns boys into rapists'

TOUGH new rape laws which make it clear being drunk does not constitute consent have been condemned by barristers, who insist: "It will turn our sons into criminals." The NSW Bar Associations reckons the "No means no" law goes too far and will lobby Upper House members to vote against it when it is up for debate next week. The law will define the meaning of consent for the first time, making it clear that being drunk or under the influence of drugs does not mean consent has been given. It will also introduce an "objective fault test", meaning a man can no longer use the defence that he thought he had consent if the circumstances appear unreasonable.

"It will turn our sons into criminals," new Bar Association president Anna Katzmann SC said yesterday. "For years women have been insisting 'No' means 'No'. What troubles us about this new legislation is that it introduces a new regime where 'Yes' may mean 'No'." Ms Katzmann gave the example of a woman on a first date who might not want to have sex but after both she and the man had drunk too much said "Yes". The next day she feels guilty and tells her mother, who goes to the police. "That would be rape under the new laws," Ms Katzmann said. "The fact that he was drunk cannot be taken into account. The fact that she was drunk is no excuse for him.

Chair of the Bar Association's criminal law committee Stephen Odgers SC said the law made sexual assault a crime of negligence. "The stupid, the negligent, the intoxicated, the crazy will be treated as if they are the same as the true rapist, who knows there is no consent to sexual intercourse," Mr Odgers said.

Opposition attorney general, former Crown prosecutor Greg Smith, said the Attorney-General John Hatzistergos needed to spell out the law better. Mr Hatzistergos said the introduction of an objective fault test was canvassed during the State Government's exhaustive consultation process and had wide support, including police and the Rape Crisis Centre. "Although Mr Odgers might like to draw a distinction between the stupid or drunk rapist and normal rapists, for rape victims they're categories that don't matter," he said.

"If a person is drunk it does not automatically mean that consent can't be given. What it means is that the onus is on the other person, usually a man, to show he had reasonable grounds to believe the woman had consented. "It's difficult to take the Bar Association seriously on this matter when, in their own submission, they concluded that just because a woman was asleep or unconscious (it) doesn't negate consent." Earlier this year The Daily Telegraph launched the Justice For Women Now campaign to give sexual assault victims equal justice and to encourage more women to report assaults



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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