I discussed the appalling actions of the New York Police Department at the Republican National Convention in 2004 in an earlier post, much earlier… Today, the Times reports that a judge ruled the behavior of the police illegal. Oh…not all of it. They were within their rights to fingerprint the people they arrested, a fact that their spokesman trumpeted loudly. Only problem is that the arrests themselves were illegal.
In NYC, there is a lot of discussion of the NYPD policy of “stop and frisk.” They tend to stop young men of color, and have done so at an annual rate that equals the entire young African-American and Latino population of the city. For this, they have netted a few arrests, and the smoldering animosity of an entire generation of young men. Seems rather inefficient, don’t it?
I would like to advance a modest proposal, in the spirit of Mr. Swift, that will be familiar to all aficionados of sci-fi stories and films, and that would make this approach to crime fighting very productive:
Simply provide every citizen with an identify card that contains a computer chip with a GPS and encoded ID info. Police can scan people without stopping them, and interrogate them if they are without their papers. Other countries do this (minus the technology.) Also, the movements of every citizen could be tracked and interrogated by the police, and compared with real-time data on crimes. “Sir, you were at that drug store at 11:32 p.m. when a robbery occurred. Please come with us...” (Oh, yeah, you’re not white either…)
Just to keep it all on the up-and-up, there’s no reason for this data to be secret. The social network Big Brothers of the world might be persuaded to cooperate in this brave new adventure in positive social engineering by posting all the movement data on every citizen. We would have the same data as the cops, and could keep tabs on everyone! Think of the adulterous affairs that would be nipped in the bud – a boon for family life! Drug use among teenagers would probably take a hit from vigilant parents. Facebook and Google would find ways to make billions of dollars off ad revenue for lawyers, counselors, drug programs, and the like that would be tightly focused. Imagine! You are arrested, and lawyers are waiting for you at the station, eager to represent you! Surely, a positive development for civil rights.
Maybe some day we can go the next step of implanting the chips in newborns. All under the beneficent gaze of the supervising corporate entities, keeping us entertained with spectacles, as in Rollerball. Sometimes, these days, I feel we’re almost there.
News on the incredible case of Adrian Schoolcraft, who was thrown into a mental hospital for six days to try to cover up his documenting of NYPD abuses. What with periodic shootings of young black men, subsequently found to be unarmed, and things like this, it’s hard to feel trusting towards New York’s Finest.
An NYPD report supports the claims made by Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, the Brooklyn cop who accused the NYPD of throwing him into a mental hospital because he complained supervisors were cooking the books to make the crime rate seem lower.
The 95-page report was completed in June 2010 but never released. Jon Norinsberg, Schoolcraft’s lawyer, called it “a very strong vindication” of Schoolcraft’s claims.
“It’s unfortunate that this has not been disclosed to the public,” Norinsberg said. “But it will all come out when this goes to trial.”
At lunch, yesterday, I wandered by this building in downtown Manhattan. There was a cluster of people in front, including a couple holding signs defending the rights of American citizens to build a mosque and community center if they want to. I asked why they were protesting there and was told that this was the building where the mosque was to be built. Clueless to time and space as usual, I had not even noticed what street I was on.
A stocky white woman was ranting to a lithe black man with a video camera about how this project is an offensive “trophy mosque.” She compared it to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the oldest Islamic building in the world, which she said was built as a commemoration of Moslem conquests in that region. Wikipedia makes no mention of this, saying it was built as a shrine for pilgrims to the site that is holy to Christians, Moslems, and Jews, and was not even planned as a place of regular worship.
It’s hard to imagine the local community boards and zoning reviews allowing a structure as eye-catching as the golden dome to be built on Park Place in Manhattan, but I guess that’s what people in the No-Mosque crowd fear. The ranting lady conveyed with winks, nods, sarcasm and other broad rhetorical devices her absolute dismissal of the notion that the backers of the project are anything but evil agents of a foreign power – nation? religion? terrorist group? Obviously they are not what they pretend to be – Americans who want to build a cultural center near where many of them work and live.
It wasn’t too long ago that Jews were subject to this same sort of vile bigotry in America. Being Jews, they must be loyal to a foreign entity. Before the state of Israel existed, it was supposed to be some sort of international cabal of cannibals and bankers. And Catholics too were treated the same way. After all, they are not true Americans since their allegiance is actually to the pope. JFK was rumored to be under the pontiff’s thumb. A fifth-column of popery in DC!
I heard a snippet of an interview today about the new investigations of the CIA by the Department of Justice. The reporter asked some guy what he thought the effect might be on counter-terrorism operations abroad.
There will be a chilling effect, definitely. These people [being investigated for abuse of prisoners, torture, etc.] thought they were following the policy, orders…
Not his exact words, but close. Let’s hope there’s a chilling effect! We need it! Yes, do your job without torturing people, imprisoning them on flimsy suspicions, and stop “rendering” them to foreign countries willing to beat them to death to do us a favor of keeping our hands clean.
Let’s demand that our gallant defenders of our liberty stop and think a bit about what they are doing in secret rooms, and not feel free to run amok because they can use the old excuse, “I was just following orders…”
Let’s see. Louis Gates, a senior citizen, renowned professor at Harvard, walking with a cane, is arrested by the Cambridge police in his own home, for…shouting at a cop? He violated the first rule of encountering the police force: never antagonize an officer. Still, what are the odds he would have been arrested if he hadn’t been black? Much smaller, I’d say, but not zero!
From the NYTimes today, an article about Iran:
Top Reformers Admitted Plot, Iran Declares
The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.
Confessions! What a surprise! Yes, torture is a very effective instrument for uncovering the truth. Ask Dick Cheney.
The recent court case reversing the lower court decision on a discrimination suit by New Haven firemen got me thinking. The white firemen claim that they were unfairly denied promotions when the department changed the exam and readministered it, hoping to get more minority-group officers in place. It seems to me that their case is based on the assumption that they have a right to be promoted, which was, I believe, the gist of Justice Ginzburg’s dissent.
Let’s see…a racially and ethnically diverse city, New Haven, decides that it should have a fire department that reflects its citizenry. Okay. They have an all-white department, so they start recruiting non-white candidates. Okay. They have no success, so they say, “We are not getting the result we want. We have to change our recruiting policies.” Nobody has a problem with that.
So they change, and the nature of the firefighting force changes. But all the captains are white. They feel they have a qualified pool of minority firemen, but none of them pass the test. So they change the test. The white firemen sue.
There seems to be an assumption current that the test was “dumbed down.” I don’t think any evidence for that was presented. The only other reason to challenge the action of the department is if you support the notion that the firemen who first passed the test have a right to be promoted. Maybe there is a legal-contractual issue here, e.g., it is not allowed to refuse promotion once the test is passed, etc., but I don’t think so. Why do they have any more of a right than any other group in the department? Isn’t the policy of the department more important?
It reminds me of the suits brought by white students against universities when they fail to gain admission to a prestigious law or medical school. The claim is that a qualified white student was refused to offer a seat to a non-white person. The implication is that the minority student was not qualified, often simply because his or her SAT scores were lower. (How the one-to-one association between who is refused and who is admitted is made is unclear to me!) Here again, the assumption is that the white student has the right to a seat that has been stolen. This is presumptuous.
First ever acknowledgement of “unbelievers” by a president…in the innaugural, no less!
Oops! Apparently he said non- not un-. Great either way. I’m an UNbeliever!
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.
A president whose father wouldn’t have been served in a local restaurant sixty years ago…Amen to that!
A fine speech!!
The date, the site, and the event brought Martin Luther King to mind for millions, no doubt, but in my mind, on this innauguration, the spirit of another president was close. Lyndon B. Johnson, who could have gone down in history as one of America’s greatest, who did more for the cause of civil rights in the USA than any other president after Lincoln, and who destroyed his presidency and historical reputation with the folly and horror of Vietnam.
LBJ shows off his scar from an appendix removal to reporters – brilliantly caricatured by Levine, the scar is a map of Vietnam.
And we are “free at last” of George W. Bush (and his family, I hope!). Into the dustbin of history with him!!