Is there any New York City major candidate that you'd like to see elected?whitecolonialism
The short answer is that I don’t have any reason to prefer one candidate over another. In fact, if not for the seemingly-unending nonsense involving Anthony Weiner, I’m not sure I’d even know the names of any of the candidates. I tend to skip the local politics stories when I open my New York Times every morning.
The longer answer is that this is a local election and it isn’t clear to me why so many people outside New York are spending time on it. My suspicion is that the broader interest generated by this election is largely prurient. If there wasn’t a well-known sexting politician involved, in other words, I’m not sure anyone would be paying a whole lot attention.
I live in Nebraska and I don’t have a voice in the NYC mayoral election, nor should I. The activities of the NYC mayor’s office don’t impact me in any way and I don’t have the faintest idea of the major policy issues facing citizens in New York. Based on the stories in national news outlets, my presumption is that the most important issues facing New York today are performance enhancing drugs, giant soda containers, and sexting politicians. Presumably, though, New Yorkers are actually more interested in other matters that, again presumably, the candidates are discussing. I’m not following those issues because they don’t have anything to do with life here in Nebraska. I don’t think a single policy that Michael Bloomberg put into effect touched my life in any way.
As far as I know, no one has ever asked New Yorkers about Omaha mayoral races and I’m guessing they’d be absolutely baffled if anyone did. So I’m taking the same tack with their election. If they prefer one candidate to another, I presume they have good reason to do so based on the policy platforms of the candidates. If they don’t, they ought to. It’s their local election and local elections are important.
In the aftermath of any tragedy — whether man-made or natural — it’s not hard to find the finalists for the “Most Reprehensible Reaction” award.
People like Senator Lindsey Graham, who urged the Obama administration to label the suspect an enemy combatant so we could more easily ignore his rights, thought they had this award locked down. But they’ve got competition.
At the top of the list is surely “journalist” Howie Carr, who wrote a deliriously Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-liberal opinion piece for the Boston Herald today that begins with this:
So once again, no good deed goes unpunished.
Uncle Sam lets another bunch of leeching future terrorists into the country who have absolutely no business being here, gives them “asylum,” making them immediately eligible for welfare, and this is the thanks we get?
They turn into mass murderers.
We bring in thousands of Muslims from a primitive society that has been battling Christians for centuries, and put them into a peaceful Christian society — what could possible go wrong?
But before we pronounce Carr the outright winner, let’s not forget New York State Senator Greg Ball, who took to Twitter to suggest that our government ought to hurry up and torture the Boston bombing suspect:
When he faced criticism for this position, he doubled down: “If people find that offensive, they’re going to have to check their own conscience.”
He then managed to turn the whole episode into a good example of why New York needs the death penalty, reminding us that, while we might have some moral qualms about torture, we can all rally behind executions.
I’m sure these few examples are just the beginning; of course, we have plenty of time before we have to actually announce the winner of the “Most Reprensible Reaction” award … and I haven’t even really looked at Facebook yet.
I’ve been encouraged to say a bit more about yesterday’s blog post concerning the Albany teacher whose students were required to write a persuasive argumentative essay from the perspective of someone living in the Third Reich about why Jews are evil and are responsible for the problems faced by Germany in the 1930s.
On the face of it, the assignment seemed so obviously problematic to me that I didn’t spend a great deal of time outlining the problem. This led a few people to comment that there’s something very valuable about being forced to think about an abhorrent position. Some claimed the value was that it made us more tolerant of unpopular opinions; some claimed it encouraged free thinking rather than repetition.
All of this would be true, I think, when we’re talking about making an argument that defends an unpopular or controversial position. I ask my students to write papers about Marx’s critique of Locke on property or Burke’s critique of the concept of universal natural rights. I think there’s real value in thinking critically about radical challenges to liberalism, especially insofar as finding ways to respond to or even integrate some of those challenging ideas can strengthen or improve the way that we think about our society and its goals.
I think there’s no value, however, in thinking critically about or defending a lie. And that’s the crux of this high school English assignment, which is — again — to write a persuasive argument about why Jews are evil and are responsible for a country’s problems. Those aren’t unpopular opinions; they’re just lies. And to teach young people that there are ways to persuasively defend lies is simple sophistry. It’s not an exercise in toleration or liberal education or anything else; it’s just a bad assignment that tried to be edgy or interesting and failed because it wasn’t thought out very carefully. The example was bad, certainly, but so was the pedagogy behind it, namely the whole notion that using propaganda tactics is a good way to teach persuasive writing.
To go one step farther, let me also add that these particular lies are incredibly pernicious ones; they are lies that led to genocide. And they are the sorts of lies that persist. In other words, you don’t have to travel very far to encounter people who hold this position (about Jews) or others like it (about other minority groups). It’s one thing to say we ought to allow people to believe and to even say all manner of things that we find unpleasant or wrong-headed; it’s quite another to say we ought to allow intolerance, hatred, and lies to be taught to our children in our schools. There’s no reason for us to tolerate that; it doesn’t make us better liberals to laud these sorts of mistaken exercises in the name of open-mindedness or free thinking.
Students in some Albany High School English classes were asked this week as part of a persuasive writing assignment to make an abhorrent argument: “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”
Students were asked to watch and read Nazi propaganda, then pretend their teacher was a Nazi government official who needed to be convinced of their loyalty. In five paragraphs, they were required to prove that Jews were the source of Germany’s problems.
The exercise was intended to challenge students to formulate a persuasive argument and was given to three classes, Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard said. She said the assignment should have been worded differently.
"I would apologize to our families," she said. "I don’t believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith."
One-third of the students refused to complete the assignment, she said.
There’s so much to say about this:
First, there’s the assignment. Isn’t it possible to teach students how to make a persuasive argument without using such a ridiculously awful example? And if you can’t think of a way to do this, aren’t you just a terrible teacher or an anti-Semite?
Second, there’s the apology. “The assigment shoud have been worded differently.” You think so? Like, it shouldn’t have used any of the words it used.
Third, there’s the heroism. 1/3 of the students who received the assignment refused to complete it. I wish the number was 2/3, but given the riskiness of simply refusing to do an assignment in high school, I’m surprised the number was even this high. They should hold an assembly that celebrates the choice made by these students.
Today the libertarian Mercatus Center released its annual “Freedom in the 50 States” list, a ranking of liberty in America as measured by Ron Swanson-ish ideals of personal and economic freedom.
According to the Center, the least free states in America are New York (population 19.5 million), California (pop. 38 million) and New Jersey (population 8.9 million).
The most free states are allegedly North Dakota (pop. 700 thousand), South Dakota (pop. 833 thousand) and Tennessee (6.4 million).
Conclusion: Americans must really, really hate freedom.
This annual Mercatus “Don’t Ask Us How a Libertarian Think-tank Ended Up at a Public University” Center study is by far my favorite annual ranking of states. Mainly because I’m convinced the entire exercise is a false-flag operation to discredit libertarian conceptions of freedom.
There are many good reasons why one might move from San Francisco, CA to Murfreesboro, Tennessee but “because of freedom!” is not one of those reasons.
The libertarian response may be “well, we measure freedom based on tax rates and the level of business regulation,” in which case Murfreesboro does look better than the Bay Area, but all this proves is that tax rates and regulations are a dumb way of capturing what we mean by the idea of being free.
It’s also true that New York and California could be even more free if they relaxed some economic regulations. The world would be a better place if zoning laws were less restrictive, if people didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars trying to get licenses to cut hair or practice interior design and if drug laws were liberalized. Things can always be better.
But that things could be improved doesn’t mean that CA and NY are less free than ND/TN now.
Same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal in all the top “least free” states and banned in 4 of the 5 “most free states.” In Oklahoma, a second offense for possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony that carries a 2-10 year prison term. Sale and distribution of any amount carries a sentence of two years to LIFE. In “least free” New York, small-dose possession and distribution result in misdemeanor charges.
And obviously, New York gets a whole lot freedom-ier when you consider positive freedom in addition to the absence of government policies that could send you to prison FOR LIFE for minor drug crimes.
There are just a hell of a lot more opportunities for self-expression and self-actualization in NY/CA (thanks in large part to all those giant corporations who choose to do business in the “least free” parts of the country”) than there are in ND/SD/TN/NH/OK. Even more so if you’re poor and your ability to fully live life is highly dependent on access to government-sponsored health/social-services.
Basically, as an accurate ranking of the most and least free places in America, the Mercatus study gets an F. As a quick and dirty explainer of why libertarianism appeals to so few people, A+.
I have nothing to add, except to note that this post is set to troll a whole lot of people in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 …
Via my friends at Short Form Blog:
Remember that episode of “Seinfeld” where Newman came up with a scheme to get rich on bottle deposits by taking New York-bred plastic bottles to Michigan, in an effort to take advantage of the 5¢ difference in deposit costs? Well, Michigan is working so Kramer and Newman can never do this again — well, at least not without risking jail time.
It’s good to see that politicians in my home state are finally taking some big steps to fix its broken economy …
The political science department at Brooklyn College is faced with a major controversy because it is cosponsoring a panel on the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. All of the speakers on the panel are in favor of the BDS movement. People from all over the country are outraged that no one was invited to speak in opposition.
Worse, though, is that the New York City Council has threatened to withdraw their funding from Brooklyn College if the event goes forward:
Lewis Fidler, Assistant Majority Leader of the NYC Council, and several other members of the City Council, write in a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould that if the BDS event is not canceled—or the political science department’s co-sponsorship of it is not withdrawn—the City Council will withdraw its financial support from the College and/or CUNY.
This afternoon, I sent a quick tweet to Corey Robin, a political theory professor at Brooklyn College, because the whole thing had me completely baffled. I just wanted to confirm that anyone who wanted to plan an event in opposition to the arguments made by the BDS folks could freely do so and could request the cosponsorship of the political science department.
And, of course, that’s the case.
I’ll be amazed if anyone can think of a compelling reason to demand cancellation of the BDS event rather than simply holding a separate pro-Israel event. Invite impressive speakers, give away fantastic door prizes, and argue against the BDS movement’s claims with giving them even a moment to respond to anything you say. That’s one of the great things about colleges: Students are presented with a bunch of different ideas and arguments, and they are, ideally, taught to think critically and assess them. So, if you think the BDS position is wrong, then argue against it just as they’re arguing for it.
Or just stay home and ignore the BDS people; it’s not like they’re going to convince millions of people to suddenly boycott and sanction Israel, and it’s not like the university is supporting the BDS position (the president has explicitly said that the university does not).
Unless, of course, your pro-Israel arguments are so weak compared to the BDS argument that you just desperately fear students at Brooklyn College might hear them and suddenly realize that supporting Israel is obviously ridiculous. I’m guessing that’s not what the anti-BDS crowd thinks, but that’s certainly what their reaction to the BDS panel discussion suggests:
Desperate, irrational fear.
NYC’s 2012 homicide rate was the lowest in recorded history.
Well how in the world did that happen?! I’m sure it has nothing to do with gun control.
And I’m guessing the NRA’s position is that adding some more guns into the mix will bring that number down even more …
As millions and millions of children open presents under festively decorated trees in their living rooms this morning, I think we can finally declare this year’s War on Christmas at an end.
Of course, in an enormous mansion somewhere in this great country, Bill O’Reilly is sitting on a pile of money and already preparing for next year’s War on Christmas. It’ll begin just after Halloween, when the first lights go up on people’s houses and trees. And it’ll end, as every year, when the Christmas holiday is celebrated without a hitch.
Every year, Fox News goes wild with the notion that Christians somehow can’t celebrate their holiday as they choose and, every year, a sizeable group of Christians crowd into shopping malls to sit on Santa’s lap while listening to Christmas carols that are playing on a month-long loop; they buy Christmas presents to unwrap under their Christmas trees on a federal holiday that just so happens to coincide with Christmas … all the while lamenting that someone has wished them “Happy Holidays.”
So, remember what John and Yoko told you:
War (on Christmas) is Over … if you want it.
These people get up in the middle of the night to go put out fires. They don’t expect to be shot and killed.
That’s a Webster, NY police official on several firefighters getting shot while battling a fire.
What the hell, America?! We’re just taking potshots at firefighters now?
But, seriously, can someone get Wayne LaPierre on television so he can quickly blame these firefighters for not carrying guns while fighting fires that were apparently set in order to ambush them?
Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past week or so, it’s that the only way to prevent someone from shooting firefighters is to make sure that firefighters are armed.
For the second time in a week, a man falls onto the New York subway tracks in front of an oncoming train.
The first time, of course, was very heavily publicized … in no small part because the man was pushed, because he wasn’t helped by onlookers, and because he was killed by the train.
This time, however, another man jumped down onto the tracks to help and then was himself assisted by several other onlookers:
[Victor] Samuel, a Queens father of two, was yanked to safety from the tracks of the Bowling Green station after risking his life to save a dazed drifter from an oncoming No. 5 train.
Now he hopes to get together aboveground with Doreen Winkler, the diminutive Brooklynite whose efforts spared Samuel and the second man from dying beneath the subway wheels.
Samuel, speaking Saturday to the Daily News, said the two could ideally meet for coffee in a less “stressful” situation to discuss their lifesaving efforts. He’s already contacted her through the Internet.
And he sent along thanks to the others on the platform who pulled him and Jack Simmons, 64, from the tracks.
The rescue was “a collective effort,” he said. “I really want to give credit to a lot people for helping out.”
The 43-year-old good Samaritan doesn’t regret his decision to make the Thursday night leap — even as thoughts of Monday’s subway death of Ki-Suck Han flashed through his mind.
“I had to make a very split-second decision … literally just a split-second decision to go in there,” he said of jumping down on the tracks. “I’d really rather not be in the spotlight for it.”
The 5-foot-2 Winkler, who moved to Brooklyn four years ago from Germany, was among the frantic crowd on the platform.
She described grabbing both men by their arms and yanking with an adrenaline rush as two other woman assisted the rescue on the northbound platform.
There hasn’t been nearly as much discussion of this successful rescue effort and, given my post yesterday about people standing by rather than helping, I thought it was important to see if we might get some insight into how people can — and often do — come to the assistance of others:
The 5-foot-2 Brooklynite wept Friday when recounting her adrenalized effort as visions of this week’s fatal subway shove ran through her head.
“I had one arm each of each man,” she told the Daily News. “I was freaking out that nobody was helping at first.”
Her heroics elicited applause from fellow straphangers — mere seconds after the lower Manhattan subway station echoed with screams and gasps of horror.
“You can’t ever, ever, ever watch somebody die,” said Winkler, who moved to New York four years ago from Hamburg, Germany.
Winkler said she couldn’t shake the image of Ki-Suck Han, 58, pushed into the path of an oncoming train Monday afternoon in midtown. The Korean immigrant was killed before anyone could come to his aid.
“Not again,” she said. “The whole time in my head, not again. I kept thinking I’m going to watch him die.”
This story has me wondering a couple of things:
1. How much Winkler’s personal history, as a German who recently moved to New York, factored into her feeling that it was necessary to assist someone in need and how much she was influenced by the image of Ki-Suck Han’s death earlier in the week.
2. Relatedly, whether it matters more that almost no one is paying attention to this story where people helped or that everyone paid so much attention to the story about no one helping. In other words, are we more likely to encourage helping behavior by highlighting stories where people act heroically or where they fail to do so?
I don’t yet know my answer and I can see a plausible argument for both sides of this question. I’ll be thinking about it all week and we’ll discuss it on the Hero Report podcast on Friday afternoon at 4pm Eastern (which you’ll be able to watch and on which you can comment live, either here on my blog or on Google+). In the meantime, I hope you’ll send me your thoughts … either with Tumblr’s Ask feature, via the blog’s Facebook page, using the Disqus comment feature at the bottom of this post, in 140 characters on Twitter, or via email.
Obviously, there’s been a great deal of discussion over the past few days about this photograph. The majority of it has focused on ethical issues raised by the photographer and by the editors of the New York Post. The general conclusion is that the Post shouldn’t have published the photos. There is no consensus on whether the photographer should have more actively attempted to assist the man on the tracks, whether his story is believable that he took the photographs in an attempt to alert the driver of the train to the man’s presence on the tracks, or whether the man’s assailant still posed a danger that precluded any further action.
What very few people are talking about — and what I think is of utmost importance to discuss — is why this subway platform appears to be so empty.
We are presented here with a textbook example of the infamous bystander effect. When someone was in clear danger, lots of people backed away.
We know it’s far more common for people to stand by than to rush in to assist … and, as my friend Matt Langdon points out, we know why this happens. But when it happens, as it did in this case, we bring experts onto the television programs to explain the bystander effect all over again and then we forget about it until the next time. We’re shocked that no one helped, because we tell ourselves that we would definitely have done something. But we need to know that’s unlikely, empirically.
So how do we make it more likely?
The first step is recognizing that the people who didn’t help the man in this photo aren’t bad people; they’re ordinary people who weren’t prepared to act when the need arose. Because running in and helping isn’t something that just happens. If it was, the man on the tracks wouldn’t be the only one in the photo.
The next step is to start preparing to make difficult choices, preparing to act heroically if the moment arises. Because if you haven’t thought carefully about the risks — if you haven’t envisioned making sacrifices and putting yourself in harm’s way to help someone else — then there’s pretty much no chance you’ll resist the urge to back away from trouble when it comes.