Free Markets, Free People

New York City


Living with progressive values

Like they’re doing in New York City:

At her January inauguration, New York city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told her colleagues, “Now is the time to embrace our progressive moment and put our values into action.”

Whoo hoo … right?  Yeah, not so much.  What that means is your business is their business and privacy is a vestage of simpler, more conservative times (you know, like the time in which the Constitution of the United States was written).  In the brave new world of progressive values, that old bit of parchment is passe.

One of the Democrat-dominated council’s first acts was to override former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vetoes of bills from previous sessions. Then the 51-member legislative body got down to business: regulating the minutiae of New Yorkers’ lives, empowering city agencies to enter private property at will, and setting up task forces to study leisure activities.

At its semi-weekly “stated” meeting—where members pass bills and introduce new legislation—the council directed the Department of Health to develop a registry of convicted animal abusers, along the lines of the sex-offender registries that all states maintain. The registry would ensure that animal abusers cannot own animals for at least five years following their conviction or incarceration. Abusers will have to submit to annual reviews of their living situations, and pet stores and animal shelters will need to check the registry before selling an animal. Preventing animal abuse is a laudable goal, but the new law suffers from several deficiencies. For one thing, the Department of Health opposed its passage. The DOH has no enforcement capability or experience in monitoring criminals.

So where will the possible abuse probably occur?  Yup … DOH.

But that’s nothing compared to this next beauty:

Meanwhile, Upper Manhattan councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez proposed a bill that would expand city workers’ authority to demand entry into many buildings. The bill, Intro 18, covers all buildings that receive tax benefits under Section 421-a of the tax code, which covers affordable housing. Councilmember Rodriguez’s bill would allow representatives of “any city agency” to access any such building for any reason—and “such request for access need not be made in writing.”

Intro 18 doesn’t specify which areas of a building must be made accessible to city employees, nor does it specifically limit the scope of the investigations. The bill comes with no memo explaining its intent, as is typically included when a bill makes its way through committee hearings. But one could reasonably imagine a scenario where an inspector wanted to check, say, if the affordable units in a rental building or co-op were outfitted with the same appliances and fixtures as market-rate units. According to the bill’s language, it appears the tenants or unit owners could be forced to open their doors to inspectors at any time. The potential for abuse is clear. Picture a series of minor administrative factotums waiting to have their palms greased to stave off endless inspections. Rodriguez’s bill suggests a city where private property is a privilege that can be taken away by a bureaucrat’s will.

And, of course, they’ll be “shocked, shocked I tell you” when, in 6 months, they uncover their first corruption scandal involving city employees or discover the bill is being abused by bureaucrats.  Note that the bill is “proposed” for the time being.  But it certainly reflects these progressive’s values, doesn’t it?

Another proposed bill reflecting those progressive values?

Another proposed law, Intro 8, addresses the grave problem of businesses claiming to be “environmentally friendly.” New Yorkers, a naïve and trusting group of rubes, apparently are getting snookered by greener-than-thou businesses. So much so that Brooklyn councilmember Vincent Gentile wants the city to establish an official “environmentally friendly” designation for which businesses can apply. The bill’s text calls for the Commissioner of Small Business Services to “coordinate with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and any other city agency or agencies that regulate businesses,” to devise categories of environmentally friendly businesses and non-environmentally friendly businesses. Should this it really be a top priority for the city council?

Should it?  No.  But will that stop them?  No.

More:

Perhaps topping them all, councilmember Ruben Wills of southeast Queens has submitted Intro 44, “in relation to the creation of a task force on the sport of cricket.” The bill’s multiple sub-sections and sub-sub sections describe the constitution of the task force and detail the making of appointments, filling of vacancies, and so on. After a year, the envisioned task force will deliver a report that “shall include specific recommendations on the following topics: i. funding sources for team equipment, uniforms, and umpires; ii. promoting cricket in New York City; iii. potential economic development initiatives.”

Cricket’s popularity in Pakistan, India, and Trinidad stems in part from the ease with which it can be played, pickup-style, with limited equipment: a ball, a bat, and some sticks for the wicket. Visit any playing field in central Brooklyn or eastern Queens and you’ll see plenty of people enthusiastically playing. It’s not clear why the city needs a task force to brainstorm “funding sources” for an already popular pastime.

Critical fraking stuff, no?  Very important that Cricket be regulated in some form or fashion to the benefit of … NYC of course.  Er, I mean NYC’s citizens.

If these are examples of progressive values, I’ll live in my backwater and more conservative/libertarian area where citizens, for the most part, continue to tell local pols to mind their own business not theirs and to ensure they pick up the trash on time and keep the roads clear.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Nov 13

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss Obamacare’s failure, and the triumph of socialism in NYC.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Oh, goodie – a rerun

And it has all the ear-markings of the usual failure.  New York mayoral race:

Since the days of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats, it has been a totem of faith in some liberal-progressive circles that the key to lifting up the lower ranks lies in downplaying social and economic conflicts, cozying up to business interests, and tackling inequality covertly, through largely invisible subsidies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. De Blasio, in pledging to raise taxes on the rich to finance his education programs, has challenged this formula, and turned himself into the standard-bearer for what some see as a new era of urban populism.

Yes indeed, a “new era of urban populism”, or as those who view the idea just a little differently, a new era of class warfare in which the demonized class gets robbed and the proceeds of the theft are supposedly redistributed for the benefit of the “proletariat”. It’s not like we don’t spend enough on education now. You’d think a smart mayoral candidate would consider the possibility that money isn’t the problem. But that’s too difficult and besides, when you’re supported by teachers unions, well, it’s easier to go after the rich.

And, of course, the author of this article is quite excited about it. It’s like this has never happened recently in, oh, I don’t know, France? You know … where they decided those filthy rich should pay for everything. It certainly wasn’t a matter of “urban” populism per se, but it was a matter of socialist populism – same thing. Result? The rich started moving elsewhere. Imagine that.

Of course De Blasio would have to get this past the state legislature – not likely anytime soon. And, as the author mentions, it’s not a huge tax raise so it’s likely not to get much coverage even if it is passed. But the point of course is the left never learns. Ever. They’re committed to the same failed policies and same failed solutions as they always have been.

Most remarkable is the apparent surprise they register when the predictable happens. It is like they’re geese and they wake up in a new world every day? Unfortunately we have to share the world with them and they’re making it progressively unlivable.

~McQ


So is there a desire to pin the carbombing attempt on domestic terrorism?

That’s kind of the message I’m getting concerning the attempt Saturday to detonate a VBIED near Times Square in NYC.

Now, I’ve watched the video of the alleged suspect.  I’m having a tough time with a description of “furtive” to describe his activities.  Yes, he pulled a sweatshirt off and went with the T-shirt below, but he didn’t seem hurried, or “furtive”.  He could have been hot though.

And I don’t get this:

Mayor Bloomberg said the planned mayhem did not appear to be the work of al Qaeda or any other large terror network.

Really? Why’s that? Because the alleged perpetrator was a balding white guy? The mayor really ought to consider the term “outsourcing” and its implications.

The bomb certainly was crude. Bags of fertilizer, propane tanks, fireworks and gasoline. I know enough about fertilizer bombs to know that leaving it in the bag isn’t the way to make a bomb. However, had the propane gone off, it would have definitely had the potential to create a mass casualty situation.

Add to that the Taliban leader’s claim – in a video made before the attempt on Times Square – that he was responsible (that is to say he “commissioned” the job) and it is hard for me, at this early date to rule out “al Qaeda or any other large terror network”.

But authorities sure do seem intent on trying to do exactly that. Unless they know alot more than they’re saying, it isn’t clear to me at all that you can rule anyone or any organization out.

In fact, even more evidence turned up today suggesting that the Taliban are, in fact, involved in targeting US cities:

Two tapes were sent today to The Long War Journal by a group identifying itself as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The same group sent a link earlier today to The Long War Journal to a YouTube video of Qari Hussain Mehsud claiming that the Taliban carried out the failed May 1 car bomb attack in New York City’s Times Square.

The two Hakeemullah tapes consist of a videotape of Hakeemullah flanked by two masked fighters, and an audiotape with images of Hakeemullah superimposed over a map of the US with explosions in the background. In both tapes, Hakeemullah claimed that the Taliban have infiltrated the US and that their operatives would launch attacks in American cities.

The videotape was produced on April 4, while the audiotape was produced on April 19, according to Hakeemullah.

While I think it is entirely possible that the man seen leaving the SUV on Saturday is indeed a “middle aged, balding white man”, I also think it is entirely possible that the Taliban claims of responsibility are real.

If so, watch for other attempts in other cities soon. As for the ostriches out there – pretend this isn’t a larger plot by international terrorist organizations at your own peril. Such thinking can blow up in your face fairly quickly – no pun intended.

~McQ


Here’s A Pro-Business City

Yeah, you probably thought immediately, “he’s being facetious and talking about New York city”. Ah, you got me. From Jacob Sullum at Reason:

Vince Nastri III paid $9,000 for the coffee machine he installed in his lower Manhattan tobacco shop. Now it could cost him thousands of dollars more. The city’s health department is threatening him with fines, saying he is operating a “food-service establishment” without a permit, even though the coffee is free. Nastri could apply for a permit, but then his customers would no longer be allowed to smoke.

Damned if he does, no coffee if he doesn’t. Tell me, since when did it become any government’s job to decide whether or not you could offer free coffee to customers of your establishment if you chose to do so?

And does this mean that lawyer’s and doctor’s offices which offer free coffee to clients and patients are “operating a food-service establishment without a permit”, or is this really just a bit of selective targeting and enforcement to harass an out of favor business?

Well, unless I see a lot of citations in the coming months citing business establishments of all types and sizes who provide coffee to their employees or customers as “operating a food establishment without a permit”, I’ll have to conclude its the latter.

~McQ


The Recession is Racist (Updated)

Just thought you should know:

While unemployment rose steadily for white New Yorkers from the first quarter of 2008 through the first three months of this year, the number of unemployed blacks in the city rose four times as fast, according to a report to be released on Monday by the city comptroller’s office. By the end of March, there were about 80,000 more unemployed blacks than whites, according to the report, even though there are roughly 1.5 million more whites than blacks here.

Across the nation, the surge in unemployment has cut across all demographic lines, and the gap between blacks and whites has risen, but at a much slower rate than in New York.

Economists said they were not certain why so many more blacks were losing their jobs in New York, especially when a large share of the layoffs in the city have been in fields where they are not well represented, like finance and professional services. But in those sectors, the economists suggested that blacks may have had less seniority when layoffs occurred. And black workers hold an outsize share of the jobs in retailing and other service industries that have been shrinking as consumers curtail their spending.

Hmm, so maybe it’s just NYC that’s racist?

“Low-wage workers and workers who lack skills are really getting hit hard,” he said. “These are the workers who are sort of fungible. They lose their jobs very quickly, particularly in retail, the people who move boxes and do unskilled work. There are large numbers of African-Americans in that sector.”

Manufacturing, which has shed more jobs than any other sector of the city’s economy, had become a mainstay for black workers, Mr. Jones said. Government jobs had also become a prime source of solid, stable work for many blacks in the city, he added. But lately there have been cutbacks there, too, as falling tax revenue has forced the paring back of budgets.

So it’s those who hire unskilled workers who are racist? This theme is confusing.

Still, Mr. Parrott’s analysis painted a stark picture of how uneven the effects have been for whites, blacks and members of other minorities. His figures show that whites gained about 130,000 jobs in the year that ended April 30 over the previous 12 months, but blacks, Hispanics and Asians all lost jobs during that period. Employment fell by about 17,000 jobs for blacks, 26,000 jobs for Hispanics and 18,000 for Asians and other ethnic groups, the data show.

“That’s a black-and-white employment picture,” Mr. Parrott said. “It’s like night and day over the 12 months. “There’s a real racial shift taking place in the city’s labor market in the past year.”

Okay, I’ve got it now. It’s white New Yorkers who are racist. Or maybe its the high-skilled labor market that’s racist? Again, I’m not sure.

But the article seems to imply pretty strongly that racism is at the bottom of this problem. Otherwise, why not mention how many of the unemployed are men, or of prime-age, or well-educated? Heck, why not mention that of the 108,000 [139,100 newly] unemployed workers in NYC [over the 12 month period between April 2008 and 2009], 61,000 [92,000] (or a little more than 56% [66%]) are white (which really makes you wonder where the 130,000 jobs figure came from)?* Obviously, the story is intended to tell us that somebody is being racist, and that’s why the “black-white gap in joblessness” is being discussed at all.

Welcome to post-racial Obamaland. If you don’t know whose fault it is, then it’s probably yours, racist.

UPDATE: Those numbers (in the sentence marked above with the *) were really bothering me. I went back and looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for New York City’s unemployment and discovered that the NYT article is way off. The number of jobs lost between April 2008 and April 2009 was 139,100, of which (according to the article) 17,000 were lost by blacks, 26,000 were lost by Hispanics, and 18,000 were lost by Asians and other races. Somehow or another, Mr. Parrott, who the article cites for the numbers, came up with 130,000 jobs gained by whites in this period. Of course, that makes absolutely no sense because, if it were true, then there would have been an increase in employment during that period, and the unemployment rate would have fallen, not skyrocketed. Instead, 139,100 people became unemployed, only 47,000 of whom were non-white. Ergo, instead of whites gaining 130,000 jobs, they lost 92,000.

There are other problems with the article as well, some of which you can discover by reading the NYT (in fact, the stories are written by the same person). For example, the story above cites low-wage, manufacturing and government workers as hardest hit, but last month the picture was just the opposite (emphasis added):

In the private work force, the weakness in May was concentrated in the fields of communications media, advertising and other information services, as well as in finance and education, according to James Brown, an analyst with the state’s Labor Department.

Those losses offset employment gains in tourism-related businesses and construction, Mr. Brown said. He said that aggressive price-cutting by hotels had kept tourists visiting and saved jobs. Construction benefited from the flow of federal stimulus funds, he added.

The latest numbers, Mr. Brown said, illustrate that New York’s economy is still contracting, despite recent fluctuations in the city’s unemployment rate, which was 8 percent in April.

“Although the unemployment rate actually dipped slightly in three of the last five months, the trend is still strongly upward,” he said. “Despite some positive notes, the city’s job market is still weak and the weakest areas — financial activities and professional and business services — will not resume growth until after the national economy improves.”

I’m sure there’s other stuff that’s wrong as well, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are a racist.


Successful NYC Trip …

I just barely beat the global warming home. Otherwise, I had a great trip up to New York City. Here’s some of the highlights:

The Empire State building as seen from the roof of my sister's apartment building.

The Empire State building as seen from the roof of my sister's apartment building.

Looking across the East River into Queens

Looking across the East River into Queens

I made it a point to go take pictures in Central Park. These are from the Bethesda Terrace which is Mid-Park around 72nd Street.

Angel of the Waters at Bethesda Terrace, Central Park

Angel of the Waters at Bethesda Terrace, Central Park


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