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“An Airhead And A Moron”: Stay Calm, Carry On, And Don’t Listen To Peter King

With a confirmed case of Ebola in New York City, the relevant officials and agencies, who have prepared extensively for these circumstances, are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Some anxiety is understandable, but the public can have confidence in the public-health system.

And while they’re at it, Americans should probably ignore a certain Republican congressman from NYC.

Republican Rep. Peter King thinks the doctors are wrong on Ebola, suggesting the deadly virus might have mutated and gone airborne in an interview with Long Island News Radio last week.

“You know my attitude was it’s important not to create a panic and it’s important not to overreact and the doctors were absolutely certain that this cannot be transmitted and it was not airborne and yet we find out the people who have contracted it were wearing all protective gear,” said King.

The Republican lawmaker, who made the comments before learning about the new diagnosis, added, “I think the doctors have been wrong. I don’t think it was any conspiracy, I think they have been wrong…. It’s time for the doctor’s to realize that they were wrong and figure out why they were wrong. Maybe this is a mutated form of the virus.”

To understate matters, King isn’t helping. First, it’s true that some nurses in Dallas became infected while caring for a patient, but the CDC has concluded that a breach in protocol with the protective gear was responsible. This does not mean Ebola is “airborne.”

Second, while it’s possible for medical professionals to be wrong, there’s no evidence whatsoever – from King or anyone else – that the doctors have been wrong about Ebola.

The congressman, in other words, is just throwing around reckless opinions, based on nothing but fear, and making bogus assertions that may scare people for no reason. It’s the exact opposite of what responsible public figures, communicating with the public, should be doing right now. Peter King has no background in science or medicine, and there’s simply no reason for him to tell Americans that doctors “were wrong” about Ebola when the evidence suggests the exact opposite is true.

In case that weren’t quite enough, King also wants the government to start aggressively spying on Americans based on their religion.

Republican Rep. Peter King says the United States should respond to the shootings Wednesday morning in and around the Canadian Parliament, which left a soldier dead, by increasing surveillance on Muslims.

The New York Republican, speaking with NewsMaxTV’s America’s Forum also placed blame on “morons” on the New York Times editorial board, Associated Press, and American Civil Liberties Union for limiting the New York Police Department’s ability to surveil Muslim communities.

“We can have all the technology in the world, the fact is we have to find out what’s happening on the ground in these Muslim communities and we can only do that through increased surveillance,” King said.

Taking a step back, so long as folks keep a level head, follow guidance from knowledgeable officials, and ignore Peter King, we should be all right.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 24, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Muslims, Peter King | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Poor Door”: A Symbol Of A Truth We All Know

A few words about the “poor door.”

Maybe you already know about this. Maybe you read on Slate, saw on Colbert or heard on NPR how a developer qualified for tax benefits under New York City’s Inclusionary Housing Program by agreeing to add to its new luxury building on the Upper West Side a set number of “affordable” apartments. How the company won permission to build that building with two entrances, one in front for the exclusive use of upper-income residents, another, reportedly in the alley, for residents of more modest means.

Hence, the “poor door,” though the term is something of a misnomer. While the premium units with the Hudson River views would probably strain the average budget at a reported sale price of $2,000 a square foot, the 55 “affordable” apartments overlooking the street are not exactly priced for the family from Good Times. We are told they are expected to draw small families earning up to $51,000 a year — not enough to contemplate putting in a bid for the Knicks, but more than enough to ensure you don’t have to squeegee windshields for pocket change.

Anyway, Extell Development apparently thinks it too much to ask the well-heeled to use the same door as such relative paupers. Observers have responded with outrage. A New York Times pundit called it “odious.” CNN called it “income segregation.” The Christian Science Monitor called it “Dickensian.”

The door is all those things, yes, but it is also the pointed symbol of a truth we all know but pretend not to, so as to preserve the fiction of an egalitarian society. Namely, that rich and poor already have different doors. The rich enter the halls of justice, finance, education, health and politics through portals of advantage from which the rest of us are barred.

Politicians who send you form letters line up to kiss Sheldon Adelson’s pinky finger because he has access to that door. O.J. Simpson got away with murder because he had access to that door.

Over the years, I’ve met a number of wealthy people. I have envied exactly one: Tom Cousins, the Atlanta developer who founded the East Lake Foundation, a combination social experiment and real estate development that transfigured a blighted and impoverished community, raising test scores, banishing crime, lifting incomes, changing lives.

I envied him not his money, but the privilege he has had of using that money in the service of other people. What joy and satisfaction it must give to know your wealth has made a difference in the world.

The “poor door” reflects a different ideal. Unfortunately, this is the same ideal one too frequently sees reflected in the nation at large. In our elevation of the do-nothing-of-value, contribute-nothing-of-value, say-nothing-of-value likes of Paris Hilton and Donald Trump to the highest station our culture offers — celebrity — we betray not simply a worship of wealth for its own sake, but an implicit belief that net worth equals human worth. And it does not.

It’s only money. Money is neutral. It’s what one does with money that defines character.

I begrudge no one whatever luxuries fortune makes possible. Enjoy the French chalet if it makes you feel good and the wallet allows. But the poor door seems to me a bridge too far. Were I as rich as Bill Gates plus the Koch brothers multiplied by Oprah Winfrey, I don’t think I’d want to live in a building of separate but unequal access, a building built on the tacit assumption that I would be — or should be — mortally affronted at sharing a lobby with someone just because he had fewer material trinkets than I.

The very idea offends our common and interconnected humanity. In the final analysis, we all entered this life through the same door. And we’ll leave it that way, too.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 4, 2014

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poor and Low Income, Wealthy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Giving The Rich Even More Influence”: More Money Coming To An Election Near You

After the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to overwhelm federal elections with unlimited “independent” expenditures, the courts began overturning reasonable state-specific campaign finance rules — in Montana, for instance. Now it is New York’s turn.

A federal appeals court panel on Thursday said New York State’s long standing $150,000 cap on contributions to independent political groups was probably unconstitutional. The ruling came less than two weeks before New York City’s mayoral election on Nov.5. It might be too late for wealthy conservative groups to gin up support for Republican Joe Lhota in his uphill battle against Democrat Bill de Blasio. But the ruling could have a significant impact on elections starting next year.

New York State already has extremely lax campaign financing laws which allow unlimited donations to political parties for “housekeeping” purposes. Other contribution limits are scandalously high and some crafty donors have even found a way around those by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give the maximum to a candidate. For example, one real estate developer, Leonard Litwin, has used this dodge to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaigns.

New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will have to decide whether to appeal the decision. But he and others have suggested that there are possible alternatives.

He has argued that if the courts keep getting rid of the ceilings on contributions, one good option for New York State would be to raise the floor. By that he means that Albany’s politicians should create a public campaign financing system much like the one in New York City

For more almost 25 years, New York City has enjoyed the best and fairest campaign financing operation in the country. Candidates receive $6 in public funds for every $1 in contributions up to $175 per person. That matching system means more people can afford to run for office. Donors who write small checks know they can make a bigger difference.  And voters have more choices, which might be the reason too many state legislators really oppose this way forward.

States that suddenly find big money flooding into their local elections could also fight back by demanding to know who’s writing those checks.

Shaun McCutcheon, who is at the center of a Supreme Court case challenging limits on campaign donations, issued a statement Thursday that said he is “very pleased that another court has decided to rule in favor of free speech.”

Actually it ruled in favor of giving the rich more influence than they already have over who wins public elections.

 

By: Eleanor Randolph, Editors Blog, The New York Times, October 25, 2013

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A False Narrative Of Equivalency”: A Lesson On Racism For New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, like most Americans, doesn’t understand what racism is. Or perhaps he does and is purposefully pretending to be obtuse to score some political points. Either way, his remarks in a recent interview with New York magazine do little more than further confuse the public as to what racism entails by reinforcing a false narrative of equivalency.

Interviewer Chris Smith suggested that the Democratic front runner in the mayoral race, Bill de Blasio, was running a “class-warfare campaign,” at which point Bloomberg interjected to add “Class-warfare and racist.” He attempted to clarify, saying:

Well, no, no, I mean* he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.

*(The “no, no” part was added to the text after protest from the mayor’s office, but it hardly changes anything.)

It’s true that de Blasio, like many other politicians, has featured his family in his campaign. What’s unique to de Blasio is that he is a white man who is married to a black woman and is the father of two biracial children. His son, Dante (and Dante’s huge Afro), have been featured in commercials that have been critical of stop-and-frisk, the police tactic made famous during Bloomberg’s tenure. Dante’s appearance has personalized de Blasio’s objection to a tactic that was deemed unconstitutional, but not before police stopped and frisked more black and brown young men than even live in the city. One hopes de Blasio would object to stop-and-frisk even if his son were not at risk of being a victim of this racist policy, but making an appeal to voters on a personal level, showing that you can relate to the real issues affecting everyday people, is politics 101.

Bloomberg thinks it’s racist.

The definition of racism in public discourse has been so distorted that any mention of race is construed as racist, mostly by opportunistic right-wingers looking to deflect from their own racist beliefs.

Any analysis of race and racism in America that does not account for the country’s white supremacist foundation is useless. Ultimately, racism is a system of oppression that has disproportionately benefited those classified as “white” and regards others as second-class citizens. For a policy/thought/action/statement to be racist, it has to reinforce that second-class status. Absent the power of doing so, we’re not talking about racism. Bigotry, perhaps, or personal hatred, but not racism. Racism needs power.

It’s why Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk is racist, and de Blasio pointing out that his son could be a victim of stop-and-frisk isn’t. One uses the power of the state to impose second-class citizenship on a group and justifies it by employing rhetoric that deems them inherently criminal and inferior; the other is a personal testimony of how that affects the lives of those who are targeted.

This only becomes difficult to parse when we live in an America that is so afraid of its past, it assigns racism to the demons of its history, rather than acknowledging the smartest, bravest, and kindest among the architects have also held deeply racist views and helped perpetuate this system of oppression. Those who regard themselves as “good” people cannot also believe themselves racist. And those who invests their own money in programs to aid black and Latino boys would never be found on the side of a racist police tactic.

Yet, that’s exactly where Bloomberg finds himself. Deflect as he may, his term as mayor is characterized by one of the most far-reaching and racist public policies of this generation. I’m not saying Bloomberg is racist. But who cares? The racism of the policies he has stood behind have already done their damage.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, September 9, 2013

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Does ‘Some Woman’ Know?”: Commissioner Ray Kelly, “No Question” More People Will Die Without Stop And Frisk

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly enthusiastically defended the New York Police Department’s use of the controversial “stop and frisk” program during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning. Kelly went so far as to claim that more New Yorkers would die without the procedure in place.

Stop and frisk is a commonly used practice wherein NYC police officers question tens of thousands of pedestrians and may frisk them for weapons and contraband. The program disproportionately targets young black and Latino men, leading many to claim that it constitutes racial profiling — a view that was affirmed by federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled the practice to be unconstitutional last week.

Host David Gregory asked Kelly if more Americans would die if the judge’s ruling — which Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) administration has already appealed — were to stand and the program be dismantled. Kelly replied, “No question about it, violent crime will go up,” before launching into a more extensive defense of stop and frisk premised on higher crime rates among minorities:

We need some balance here. The stark reality is that violence is happening disproportionately in minority communities. And that unfortunately is in big cities throughout America. We have record low numbers of murders in New York City, record low numbers of shootings, we’re doing something right to save lives. […]

This is something that’s integral to policing. This happens throughout America at any police jurisdiction. You have to do it. Officers have to have the right of inquiry, if they see some suspicious behavior. So I can assure you, this is not just a New York City issue. It’s an issue throughout America. And this case has to be appealed in my judgment because it will be taken as a template and have significant impact in policing throughout America.

In her ruling against stop and frisk, Scheindlin wrote, “[T]he policy encourages the targeting of young black and Hispanic men based on their prevalence in local crime complaints. This is a form of racial profiling.”

More than 5 million New York residents have been stopped and frisked under the program since Bloomberg took office in 2002. Over 86 percent of those who have been stopped are either black or Latino. But the mass random stops haven’t been particularly efficient — a staggering 4.4 million of New Yorkers who were targeted under the program, which cost taxpayer $22 million in civil rights lawsuits last year, were innocent.

There have also been incidents where a stop and frisk ends with deadly consequences. In March, overzealous NYPD officers shot and killed 16-year-old black male Kimani Gray after stopping him for “suspiciously” adjusting his belt. The NYPD claims that Gray had drawn a weapon on the officers — but eyewitness testimony disputes that account, and an autopsy revealed that several shots were fired from behind Gray.

That hasn’t stopped the Bloomberg administration from singing the practice’s praises. Bloomberg recently dismissed Scheindlin as “some woman” who knows “absolutely zero” about policing. “Your safety and the safety of your kids is now in the hands of some woman who does not have the expertise to do it,” he said during a radio interview Friday.

By: Sy Mukherjee, Think Progress, August 18, 2013

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Stop and Frisk | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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