O Tempora, O Mores! (August, 2009)
Empire State Crumbles
New York State has never been known for gentlemanly politics, even when it was a Dutch colony. Things did not improve under the Anglo/Americans, and the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr was part of the political struggle between the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists.
Recently the state has been treated to a political spectacle that may be its most unbecoming yet. In January, Democrats took over the state senate from the Republicans for the first time since 1965, and now control all branches of state government. Naturally, the New York Times cheered the change, and fawned over the new majority leader, Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens. Mr. Smith, like current governor David Paterson, is the first black to hold the position, and his rise was seen as yet another sign of Obama-Era change. “My goodness,” Mr. Smith sighed as he picked up the gavel. “A humble boy from Queens who used to ride a bicycle delivering groceries, and now I’m delivering on a $121 billion budget. This is a great state.”
Mr. Smith’s honeymoon was soon spoiled when Hispanic lawmakers started complaining that he was shutting them out of Senate leadership positions in favor of blacks (whites, of course, were silent about that). In June, two Hispanic senators, Pedro Espada, Jr. and Hiram Monserrate got so frustrated they announced they would caucus with the Republicans — even though they would still be Democrats. The two additional votes would put the Republicans back in the majority, and the grateful GOP offered Mr. Espada the best leadership position they would then command: President Pro Tem of the Senate. (Mr. Espada would not have been majority leader because of a complicated situation that arose when the former lieutenant governor, David Paterson, succeeded Elliot Spitzer after Mr. Spitzer resigned as governor because of a sex scandal.) Many Hispanics thought it was worth stabbing Democrats in the back in order to get power in the Senate. “If you were to poll the Latino members of the Legislature, you’d get a rah-rah response,” said Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, from the Bronx.
However, there was a split among the Hispanics. Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate and most of their Hispanic supporters are Puerto Rican. Dominican lawmakers think breaking ranks is bad for Hispanic solidarity. “There are going to be some individuals who are trying to galvanize this as a lightning rod to mobilize people, when what they are really after is personal power,” says Assemblyman José R. Peralta. Other Democrats say that before Mr. Espada defected to the Republicans he had been demanding extra staff, expensive office space, and potentially illegal pork-barrel spending.
Some blacks think the split opens a dangerous rift in the coalition to keep the heat on whitey. On June 10, Al Sharpton led a protest in Mr. Monserrate’s district, demanding that he return to the Democrat fold, claiming the party “cannot afford to break the coalition” between blacks and Hispanics. Senior Democrats met with the two turncoats, hoping to persuade them to come back, but the Hispanics reportedly refused to cooperate so long as a black remained Senate majority leader. [Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim, Latino-Black Rivalry Helped Fuel GOP’s Takeover of State Senate, New York Times, June 10, 2009. Jeremy W. Peters, Role Reversal in the Senate, and Emotions Run High, New York Times, Jan. 7, 2009.] If that is true, the black/Hispanic split is serious.
The situation in Albany became stranger still a week later when Mr. Monserrate suddenly re-defected, once again pledging to support the Democrats’ choice for Senate majority leader. Mr. Monserrate says he was won over by promises that legislation he supports would be brought to the floor for a vote.
However, by turning his coat yet again, Mr. Monserrate left the Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans at 31 to 31. This led to an actual, physical struggle for power. When there is no majority, the first person to grab the gavel gets to preside, so New Yorkers have been goggling at video images of their senators shouting and pushing to get to the podium. Senators now show up with bodyguards and bouncers who can shove people out of the chamber if necessary.
Work on state business has ground to a halt. Governor Paterson has only limited powers over senators, but he used one of the few tools at his disposal to try to get them to behave: To much screeching, he ordered a halt to the per diem and travel expenses senators normally receive, and threatened not to let the Senate adjourn until the leadership struggle was resolved.
Governor Paterson got his job without being elected to it, however, and has little support or influence. State senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, who is both black and a fellow Democrat, openly sneers at him. Now that it is known that the governor took drugs in his youth and has been guilty of many infidelities, Mr. Parker says legislators do not need “a coke-snorting, staff-banging governor to lecture us about behavior in government.” Mr. Parker himself is under indictment for felony assault on a New York Post photographer.
Mr. Monserrate, one of the Hispanic senators responsible for the turmoil, is also facing criminal charges for slashing up his girlfriend — she needed 20 stitches in her face. Mr. Monserrate is a former New York City cop who left the force under a dark cloud. He demanded a fat disability settlement, claiming he suffered from “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” In 1999, the police department decided that if he was that crazy they had better confiscate his guns. At least he was not the one to whom the Republicans offered the top job.
All this has proven too much for political reporters. Frederic Dicker, who has covered Albany for the New York Post for more than 30 years, is disgusted by this barnyard behavior in the statehouse. He also notes that race relations have taken a particularly nasty turn. He writes that “the all-white GOP conference” regularly berated itself for its lack of diversity, and tried hard to recruit minority Senate candidates and hire non-white staff. Under black leadership, however, there was crude, wholesale housecleaning. According to Mr. Dicker, blacks “fired nearly 200 almost exclusively white workers and replaced them with a large number of minority employees, many of whom were seen by their fellow workers to be unskilled at their new jobs.” Not surprisingly, he adds, “The move produced severe racial tensions, made worse by the fact that, as a high-level Democratic staffer confided, ‘We’ve been told to only hire minorities.’ ”
Mr. Dicker is not optimistic for the future of New York: “The Empire State — once a beacon of progressive state government to the nation — is on the brink of ruin. And it doesn’t look like anything can be done to stop it.” [Frederic U. Dicker, Albany, I Give Up, New York Post, July 5, 2009. Kenneth Lovett and Glenn Blain, Dave Is a ‘Coke Snorting, Staff-banging Governor,’ Says Sen. Parker — Who is Facing Assault Charge, New York Daily News, June 26, 2009. Glenn Blaine and Celeste Katz, Traitor Hiram Monserrate Likens Himself to Jesus, New York Daily News, June 21, 2009. Juan Gonzalez, Sen. Hiram Monserrate Tells News He’ll Return to Dems — Without Sen. Pedro Espada, New York Daily News, June 15, 2009. Roy Edroso, Lawyer Says Monserrate Grand Jury Included Cop, Wants Charges Dropped, Village Voice, May 29, 2009.]
We reprint the following item verbatim and in toto:
Heather Graham, co-star of the hit movie ‘Hangover,’ says she practices witchcraft. Graham claims that her witchy ways even helped get President Obama elected.
The actress says she has a group of friends who call themselves ‘The Goddesses.’ They apparently ‘wish for things’ and ‘a lot of things happen.’ They burn things. They do spells. They call on the wind and the air and storms erupt. Graham calls it ‘amazing’ and ’empowering.’ Other folks might call it spooky. A lot of people were wondering how Obama overcame the odds, beating out Hillary Clinton and John McCain in the 2008 presidential election cycle.
Well, according to Graham, the president owes her one.
‘My friends really wanted Obama to be elected,’ she says, so they all did a spell and ‘then he got elected.’ [James Hirsen, Heather Graham Cast Spell to Elect Obama, Newsmax, June 9, 2009.]
English is the worldwide language of aviation. Pilots and air traffic controllers must speak English, and, since most aircraft repair manuals are in English, aircraft mechanics must be able to read it — unless they live in the United States. One of the largest airplane repair firms, Texas-based San Antonio Aviation (SAA), imports foreign mechanics with limited English to work on airplanes. SAA, which is owned by a Singapore-based corporation, now has more than 100 Mexican and Asian technicians working double shifts.
Some SAA mechanics say many Mexican workers, in particular, cannot even understand what is said at meetings, much less read manuals. One bi-lingual former mechanic says he had to act as an interpreter: “I would be like the Pied Piper to them. They would follow me and ask what was the meeting about, what did the lead mechanic say?” He says he and many other Americans were laid off and that SAA wants to recruit more Mexicans.
John Goglia, a certified aircraft mechanic and former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, reviewed some of the Mexican immigration papers. The documentation, he says, “scares me because it doesn’t state these people are trained, and actually uses a term calling them ‘scientific technicians.’ That’s not an aviation term. When you bring in a person who can’t read the manual you raise the risk. When you bring in a person who doesn’t understand the verbal instructions from a co-worker to his supervisor, you raise the risk.”
SAA repairs planes for Delta Airlines and UPS. They say they have employees on site who make sure the work is done properly, and that the foreign contractors are not a safety risk. SAA president Moh Loong Loh insists that his company is “an equal opportunity employer” and that “our hiring policy is in strict compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.” [Byron Harris and Mark Smith, Shocking: No English? No Citizenship? ‘No Problem’ for Aircraft Mechanics, WFAA-TV (Dallas), June 13, 2009.]
Customer call centers full of foreigners are an increasingly common bad joke. Americans are tired of dealing with “Debbie” in Bangalore, and some companies are deciding that the good will they lose by routing calls to India isn’t worth the savings. Delta Airlines recently said it will close its sales and reservations center in India after Americans complained they could not understand the accent. It says it will keep centers in Jamaica and South Africa, however, because they cause fewer complaints.
JP Morgan, which handles the Florida food stamp program, stopped routing calls to India for a different reason. The Florida legislature made them stop. Florida state senator Ronda Storms (R-Valrico) says, “We should not have any jobs going outside of the country.” [Indian Accent Doesn’t Fly, Little India News (Norwalk, Connecticut), May 5, 2009.]
La Raza Is Warning Us
On June 15, the National Council of La Raza, the largest and most powerful Hispanic pressure group, issued a press release demanding that President Obama and Congress make sure any socialized medicine bill covers all Hispanics. Noting that Hispanics will gain the most from free care, La Raza president Janet Murguia urged lawmakers to avoid any bothersome talk about citizenship or legal status. “Adding layers of immigrant verification and bureaucratic red tape to a new health care system would guarantee that millions of citizen children are effectively barred from accessing preventive care and would raise the cost of health care,” says Miss Murguia. She adds that “immigration reform” will solve the illegal problem eventually, but wants medicine for all Hispanics first.
On June 25, a caller to the Mark Levin radio program said she attended a recent conference on medical system reform sponsored by La Raza. She said the conference began with a La Raza representative saying that “America does not need health care reform, but Latino immigrants need health care reform” and that “Latino children need health care more than whites.” She said that a representative from Senator Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) office told the audience that he would make sure “the useless barriers of citizenship would not be in this bill” and that “Latino immigrants are the focus of the health care reform.” According to the caller, socialized medicine proponents were told to frame the debate in terms like “streamlining,” and to stress that reform should cover “all communities” and “all families,” because “if the American people find out that this bill is about giving health care to non-citizens, they will rise up against it.” The caller also said the La Raza officials claimed free medicine is now their highest priority, above even amnesty, because illegals would benefit from it more than they would from citizenship. [Doug Ross, La Raza — ‘If the American People Found Out . . . ,’ Director Blue blog, June 27, 2009. Jackeline Stewart, NCLR Calls for Health Reform that Includes All Workers and Families, National Council of La Raza, Press Release, June 15, 2009.]
In 2006, Paul Brathwaite, executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, complained that only 20 percent of staffers on Capitol Hill were non-white, and Senators have been trying to correct this lamentable state of affairs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) now has a chief diversity officer, a black woman whose job is to help Senators hire more non-whites. She wants Congress to adopt an equivalent to the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams in the National Football League to interview at least one non-white candidate every time a head coaching slot becomes vacant — except she wants the rule to apply to all positions. She can look forward to much fruitful work. In the Senate there are only two chiefs of staff who are non-white. In the House, only five white lawmakers have black chiefs of staff, and only four blacks serve as staff directors for either a House or a Senate committee. No one seems to care how few non-white legislators have white chiefs of staff. [Dave Eberhart, Race Critics: Capitol Hill Is Too White, Newsmax, June 26, 2009.]
The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is . . .
June was a violent month in Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg. At least 12 people were shot, including a man who was killed in broad daylight on a busy downtown street. The local chapter of the NAACP decided to ask Governor Ed Rendell to bring in the National Guard. Chapter president Stanley Lawson wants a curfew and martial law for at least 30 days. “The Guard is for floods and natural disasters. I don’t know any more of a natural disaster than of our young people being killed,” he said. “We’re beyond what the Harrisburg police department can do.” Mr. Lawson noted that the Guard was called out to quell riots after Martin Luther King was shot in 1968.
Mr. Lawson says people propose various explanations for the spate of shootings — drugs, robberies, gang turf wars — but the biggest culprit is fear. “Just fear,” he says. “[Young black men] think: ‘I’m going to get them before they get me.’ ” When asked if martial law might violate civil rights, NAACP member Stanley Mitchell, a lawyer, replied, “We have the civil rights [sic] not to be shot.”
Governor Rendell says he will increase state police patrols in Harrisburg, but will not call out the Guard. [Steven Farley, Harrisburg Chapter of NAACP Urges Martial Law, Harrisburg Patriot-News, June 25, 2009.]
More BNP Fallout
British politicians, union leaders and so-called “anti-racists” say the June election of two British National Party members, Andrew Brons and chairman Nick Griffin, to the European parliament has hurt Britain’s international reputation. Claude Moraes, who represents the British Labour Party in Strasbourg, calls BNP officials “neo-fascists” and says people will now think Britain is a “nastier” place. Peter Hain, the cabinet secretary for Wales, calls the BNP successes a “shameful stain on Britain” and urges everyone to “isolate and confront the BNP.”
Union boss Frances O’Grady said the BNP is not a “normal democratic party” but a fascist group “with no place in British democratic life.” Sabby Dhalu of Unite Against Fascism claims “racist attacks” have increased in the areas that elected BNP MEPs, and that “the BNP stands for virtually every form of hatred you can think of.” Former London mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone says party members “are 21st century Nazis.” He helpfully explains that “as in the 1930s, they exploit people’s anxieties in an economic crisis to scapegoat minorities and ultimately threaten all our democratic freedoms.”
Mr. Griffin is unfazed. “The most demonized and lied about party in British politics has made a massive breakthrough,” he says. “The public have had their say and we should respect that.” [Pat Hurst and Alistair Keely, BNP Gains ‘Damaging UK’s Reputation,’ Independent (London), June 8, 2009.]
The British establishment now wants to set the law on the BNP. In late June, the Equality and Human Rights Commission sent a letter to Mr. Griffin warning that the party’s rules for membership — which state that only “‘indigenous Caucasian’ and defined ‘ethnic groups’ emanating from that race” are eligible — may violate the Race Relations Act. The letter also says BNP rules for hiring staff, who must be party members, may be illegal, too. The commission also worries that BNP Euro-deputies will neglect non-white constituents. The letter threatens “litigation or enforcement action” if the party does not offer evidence by July 20 that it doesn’t discriminate against non-whites. The “anti-fascists” are happy but wonder why it took the government so long to act.
Mr. Griffin has dealt with all this before. “It would seem that every ethnic group except the British and specifically the English has a right to all sorts of state-funded organizations to look after their interests, but as soon as the BNP appears on the scene, this right is somehow illegal for us alone,” he says. The party has passed along the letter to its legal department. [Rosa Prince, BNP Ordered to Accept Ethnic Minority Members or Face Prosecution, Telegraph (London), June 23, 2009. Afua Hirsch and Matthew Taylor, Race Watchdog Threatens BNP with Injunction, Guardian (London), June 23, 2009.]
Chesterton May Cause Cancer
G. K. Chesterton was an important 20th-century British author. Best known for his Christian writings, including Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, he also wrote popular detective stories about the Catholic priest/sleuth, Father Brown. Chesterton influenced many people with his Christian apologetics, among them C. S. Lewis, who credited The Everlasting Man for his conversion to Christianity.
It is therefore something of a surprise that the publishers of the 2008 edition of The Everlasting Man felt it necessary to include the following disclaimer: “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race have changed before allowing them to read this classic work.” This prudery led one angry purchaser to complain about the publishers’ “cowardice” and “arrogance.” “Somehow,” he writes, “I find it difficult to imagine that Chesterton would have been cowed by the strictures of political correctness. . . . [T]o print a cigarette-packet-style warning so that parents can prepare their children for the ‘horrors’ ahead is unseemly.”
The Everlasting Man uses the word “nigger” twice. On page 65, Chesterton asks, “Was the worship of a totem like the feelings of niggers about Mumbo Jumbo, or of children about Jumbo?” On page 91, in a passage about creation myths, he writes, “One of its most charming versions was that of some savage niggers, who say that a little pepper-plant grew taller and taller and lifted the whole sky like a lid.”
In his essay, “Why I Am a Catholic,” Chesterton responded to the claim that “Britain is as Protestant as the sea is salt” with the following: “Gazing reverently at the profound Protestantism of Mr. Michael Arlen or Mr. Noel Coward, or the latest nigger dance in Mayfair, we might be tempted to ask: If the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” “Nigger dance” was an early 20th-century British term for “jazz dance.”
One of Chesterton’s modern defenders lets him off the “racism” hook with the following:
[Chesterton had] no history of American slavery and, in fact, is deeply hostile to Britain’s imperialism, being a confirmed ‘Little Englander.’ He writes oodles of essays belittling the notion of ‘Nordic superiority’ [cf. Eugenics and Other Evils] and such. Indeed, if there is any ‘race’ toward which he harbors a particular hostility it is the Prussian or Teutonic race. But this is to misread him, for what matters to him are ideas, not genes. He does think that different nations have different qualities and characteristics (as does everybody). But he emphatically rejects the idea that there is such a thing as racial superiority, because he is a Catholic. [G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, Wilder Publishing, Ltd., 2008. Jay Nordlinger, Talkin’ Sarah, and &c, National Review Online, July 2, 2009. Mark P. Shea, I Think Chesterton Was a Saint, Catholic and Enjoying It (http://markshea.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-think-chesterton-was-saint.html), July 2, 2009.]
Poland is one of the most staunchly Catholic countries in the world. Although Muslims have been in the country since the 14th century, they are less than 0.1 percent of the population, and Poles like it that way. In 1936, Poland passed a law requiring Muslims to pray for the preservation of the republic and the president during Friday prayers, and the law is still on the books. The government does not recognize Muslim holidays or weddings performed in mosques.
Muslims want all this changed, and the government will oblige. The foreign ministry is working with the Muslim Religious Association on a law to give Muslims time off for religious holidays, abolish the prayer requirements, and legalize marriages in mosques. [Polish Muslims Call for a Change in Law to Recognize Islamic Weddings, DPA, June 17, 2009.]
Odhiambo Joseph, a BBC correspondent, was visiting relatives in Kenya when he heard a neighboring village was on a rampage against witches. He hurried to the scene and described what he saw:
“Villagers, many straight from their farms, and armed with machetes, sticks and axes, are shouting and crowding round in a big group in Kenya’s fertile Kisii district. I can’t see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air. More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks. Suddenly an old woman breaks from the crowd, screaming for mercy. Three or four people go after her, beat her, and drag her back, pushing her onto — what I can now see — is a raging fire. I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya — the lynching of people accused of being witches. I personally saw the burning alive of five elderly men and women in Itii village.”
An elder from Mr. Joseph’s relatives’ village told him this “happens all the time in the western district of Kisii.” The five witches had to die because they had bewitched a young boy. Mr. Joseph later learned that the young boy suffers from epilepsy. [Odhiambo Joseph, Horror of Kenya’s ‘Witch’ Lynchings, BBC News, June 26, 2009.]
Buffalo or Tijuana?
Councilman David Rivera of Buffalo, New York, has introduced legislation that would let residents keep chickens. They would have to pay a $25 fee, keep no more than five hens (no roosters allowed), and keep the coop in a fenced backyard. Coops could be no larger than 32 square feet, and would be sited a minimum of five feet from lot lines. Other rules would require rat-proof chicken feed containers and would bar people from selling backyard eggs or slaughtering chickens outdoors.
One resident, Monique Watts, is pleased the city will pass a new law, but thinks it is too restrictive — especially the ban on sales. “There are organizations that could benefit from this,” she says. “Youth groups could harvest eggs and make money for their programs.”
The city council is expected to pass new regulations by the end of July. [Brian Meyer, Chicken Wings on the Hoof? Buffalo News, June 18, 2009.]