Monday, August 11, 2014
Bill de Blasio, Progressive Hero, Scourge of the Poor
He backs strict enforcement of petty laws that disproportionately hurt the poor and marginalized. Hate just oozes out of him
New York City Mayor's OfficeIn the last few weeks, a series of videos purporting to depict police brutality by the members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) have spread on the Internet. The most egregious showed the attempted arrest of Eric Garner for allegedly selling untaxed loose cigarettes. Cops placed Garner in what looked like a chokehold and the 400-pound asthmatic died in police custody. The incident was ruled a homicide by chokehold by the city's medical examiner. In another case, a cop appeared to use a chokehold on a pregnant woman caught grilling in front of her house. Another showed a cop appearing to head stomp a man police were attempting to arrest because they had seen him with a small amount of marijuana—it was at least the man's eighth arrest.
The substance of these incidents vary on the level and type of brutality while effecting an arrest but share one important trait: each incident began with a police engagement based on crimes that are non-violent in nature. Garner, before cops tried to arrest him, had adamantly denied that he was selling any untaxed cigarettes that day. The pregnant woman appeared only to be trying to cook some food on the sidewalk in front of her house. Marijuana is supposed to be decriminalized in the state of New York.
Yet in a press conference this week New York City's progressive mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, insisted the police department would continue to "strictly enforce" such laws as the ones that led to the series of controversial police interactions. "The law is the law," the mayor said. These kinds of laws, however, disproportionately affect the same kind of people—the poor and marginalized—that De Blasio and his ideological fellow-travelers adamantly claim to defend. Absent brutal encounters with police violations of petty laws can lead to thousands of dollars in fines, multiple court appearances, and even jail time. What amounts to a "minor inconvenience" in the eyes of the privileged political class that pushes these laws can have profound negative effects on the lives of normal people. Coupled with the threat of bodily harm or even death during the initial police encounter, such "petty" crimes become anything but for the people the government targets in its enforcement efforts.
The perverse impact is best studied with regards to marijuana. In New York City, young minorities are far more likely to be arrested on minor marijuana charges than white youth. This is fueled by the police department's long-standing practice of tricking people into publicly displaying their marijuana and therefore committing an actionable misdemeanor during stop and frisks. The vast majority of police targets during stop and frisks are young minorities, creating much of the disparity between who uses marijuana and who is arrested for it.
Other petty laws similarly disproportionately affect poor and marginalized people. The sale of untaxed cigarettes, for example, is a significant black market activity in any city that has sufficiently high taxes. The sale of loose cigarettes is predominant in poor communities, where smokers might only be able to afford to purchase one cigarette a time. Many corner stores in urban areas will sell loose cigarettes, though often not to white people for fear that they're actually undercover cops.
Likewise, you're far more likely to grill on a public sidewalk if you live in a home that doesn't include a front yard. You're less likely to have a front yard if you're poorer.
Bill de Blasio does not appear to see it that way. While he based much of his campaign on the idea of combatting income inequality in New York City, it seems his understanding of income inequality is severely limited. It encompasses only the belief that the government ought to force employers to provide higher pay and better benefits, and to force landlords and developers to offer discounts for a few poor people. The mayor doesn't have any interest in the structural issues surrounding income inequality: he has been an aggressive opponent of charter schools even though a decent education is the most cost-effective and efficient way to provide a young person a route out of poverty. He has pushed for developers to offer a portion of their rental units at highly discounted rates—raising the cost of rent for people who cannot take advantage of those discounts, many of whom are also poor or lower middle class.
And his reaction to the very public way his police department has been shown to disrupt the lives of minorities in the pursuit of petty, non-violent, and harmless "crimes" betrays a shocking lack of empathy for the struggles poor and marginalized people face on a daily basis in their lives. The law may be the law, but the law was made for man, not man for the law.
Demanding that people "correct their behavior," as New York City's police commissioner Bill Bratton said while standing at de Blasio's side at that press conference, and claiming that this was indeed what "democracy" was all about, another Bratton statement, shows a callous disregard for the very transparent role government plays in exacerbating inequality, but could be par for the course for progressives despite their loud protestations otherwise.
Christian clubs not allowed in Germany
Germany's top anti-discrimination official is adding her voice to growing protests over a regional shooting association's demand that an expert marksman give up his championship title because he is a Muslim.
Christine Lueders told the Historic German Shooting Brotherhood Federation that its stance is discriminatory and intolerant, writing in a letter that it should live up to its name and act "in the spirit of true brotherhood," the dpa news agency reported Tuesday.
The umbrella organization says its constitution stipulates it is an "association of Christian people" and has defended its stance since it became public on the weekend.
The American Left vs. God-Given Rights
In his opinion declaring Virginia's marriage law unconstitutional, Judge Henry Floyd of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit summarized what he perceived to be the basic disagreement between the opponents and proponents of the law.
"The opponents and proponents agree that marriage is a fundamental right," the judge wrote. "They strongly disagree, however, regarding whether that right encompasses the right to same-sex marriage. The opponents argue that the fundamental right to marry belongs to the individual, who enjoys the right to marry the person of his or her choice. By contrast, the proponents point out that, traditionally, states have sanctioned only man-woman marriages. They contend that, in light of this history, the right to marry does not include a right to same-sex marriage."
Neither of these arguments — as summarized by the judge — is true. Even if states had historically approved of same-sex marriage, that would not make such marriages a right. After all, some states had historically approved of letting some people hold other people in slavery — which was not a right, but rather a profound violation of the God-given rights of the people who were enslaved.
The truth is all true rights come from God.
If any other power claims to be the author of our rights, that power is attempting to usurp an authority that belongs only to God, and is attacking the only basis for the rule of law that forms the foundation of free societies.
Our Founding Fathers rightly said all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, rightly said: "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."
The problem for the leaders of America's cultural left is that some of the things they demand our society must recognize as "rights" cannot plausibly be held up as God-given rights. Thus, they simply are not rights. Period.
Did God give a doctor the right to lacerate to death an innocent child in her mother's womb? Or pull her feet first from that womb and then puncture her skull?
Of course not.
Did God give two men or two women a "right" to marry one another and then adopt children with the approval of the state? If two people of the same sex do have a right to marry and take custody of children, then, as this column argued last week, children cannot be deemed to have a right to a mother and a father.
Which is more likely: That a baby has a God-given right to a mother, or that two men have a God-given right to marry one another and then secure a child through, for example, the paid services of a surrogate mother?
America's cultural left not only wants this nation to recognize as rights things that are not rights, but to abridge rights that are truly God-given and inalienable.
Does a Christian family that owns a business have a God-given right not to be forced by the government into complicity in the taking of an innocent human life? The Obama administration does not think so. It fought the owners of Hobby Lobby all the way to the Supreme Court on this question, and continues to fight multiple lawsuits aimed at cementing into our law the power of the government to force people to pay for other people's abortion-inducing drugs.
Because it is so implausible to argue that men are endowed by their Creator with a right to kill unborn children, or a right to marry people of the same sex, America's cultural left is moving away from the founding principal spelt out in our Declaration of Independence.
What will they replace it with? Their own arbitrary power.
Blame World War I For Whistleblower Persecution—And So Much More
U.S. involvement in World War I lasted just a year and a half. But government today uses its leavings to threaten Americans' freedom
Earlier this year, CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out that the Obama administration, after bringing charges against Edward Snowden, "has used the Espionage Act more to go after whistleblowers who leaked to journalists not just than any previous administration, but then more than all previous administrations combined." The claim was subsequently endorsed by PolitiFact as "true." That's a shocking use of government power to punish those who would call government officials out for their misbehavior, but hardly an unaccustomed role for for a law passed during World War I and quickly used to muzzle critics of official policy.
In fact, the "war to end all wars" left a legacy of government dominance and intrusive power in its wake that officials still exploit, and from which the country continues to suffer.
In its original form, the Espionage Act was used to prosecute Robert Goldstein for producing a movie about the American Revolution. The U.S. having recently allied itself with Britain against Germany, Goldstein's historically rooted portrayal of British soldiers as the bad guys was considered an attempt to hobble the war effort. He served three years in prison for his cinematic labors.
Eugene DebsPublic DomainRepeat Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs (pictured) was charged under the Espionage Act for speaking against conscription and the war. His health broken in prison, he was finally freed by President Warren G. Harding in 1921.
Joseph Franklin Rutherford and other leaders of what became the Jehovah's Witnesses were imprisoned in 1918 for publishing a book that criticized patriotism. Their views were considered dangerous to efforts to satisfy the government's new appetite for patriotic young military recruits.
These days, the amended Espionage Act is no longer used to stifle speakers, writers, and moviemakers (the provisions criminalizing "sedition" were repealed in 1920). Instead, it's used as a weapon, or just a threat, against those who would disseminate inconvenient information to the press and the public.
In addition to Snowden, who was charged for revealing details of the government's vast surveillance efforts to Glenn Greenwald and other journalists, the Espionage Act was used to penalize Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on wasteful and illegal snooping activities at the National Security Agency. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2011 to avoid lengthy prison time.
John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst who awkwardly confirmed that the U.S. tortured terrorism suspects before President Obama was ready to concede that "we tortured some folks," was charged under the Espionage Act. He is currently serving 30 months in prison.
This follows in the example set by the 1971 prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who was the first whistleblower charged under the 1917 law after leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.
The Espionage Act is the most visible stain left on the national character by the First World War. But it's not the only one. If civil liberties eroded during the war, economic freedom did, too.
The War Industries Board was established in 1917 to coordinate the government's acquisition of supplies for waging war in Europe. This rapidly turned into, in the words of Wilson administration official Grosvenor Clarkson, "a system of concentration of commerce, industry, and all the powers of government that was without compare among all the other nations, friend or enemy, involved in the World War."
Food AdministrationAt the same time, Herbert Hoover became "food dictator" (a term he himself used) over the United States Food Administration. The new agency had the power to regulate the distribution and use of food. It rapidly extended that power to control the price that people could charge for meat, produce, and other goods.
A counterpart, the Federal Fuel Administration, exercised similar powers over the distribution of oil and coal, controlling both price and use.
The end result was an unprecedented degree of government control over the economy. That intervention also created a class of bureaucrats accustomed to exercising such dominion—and a constituency among big businesses that benefited from powerful connections, assured markets, and the suppression of competition.
When the Great Depression descended on the country in 1929, now-president Hoover was already accustomed to invoking his wartime experiences as a model for dealing with the country's economy. "An infinite amount of misery could be saved if we have the same spirit of spontaneous cooperation in every community for reconstruction that we had in war."
The New Deal imposed by his successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, largely built on the wartime policies of which Hoover had been an architect, and the precedents and culture established by the expanded state of the First World War. While the corporatist policies of the 1930s have retreated, the proliferation of boards and bureaucrats wielding vast economic power never entirely went away. Depression-era farm subsidies continue to distort food production and hike prices in the United States, damaging the environment and enriching the well-connected.
America's involvement in World War I lasted just a year and a half. But government today uses its leavings to choke off the free flow of information, goods, and services, and to threaten Americans' freedom in the process. The Espionage Act lingers on, as does the habit of government meddling and intervention in the economic affairs of private businesses and individuals.
Just a few short and bloody months of conflict, and a century later we're still dealing with the damage done to our freedom.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.