bookmark_borderAdditional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney

The Straight Pride Parade that took place two weeks ago inspired a wide variety of reactions from politicians, judges, law enforcement officials, and others. Here is a summary of these developments and my opinions on them:

Battle between Suffolk D.A. and judge

36 people who protested against the parade were arrested for crimes such as disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on police officers. For 20 arrestees charged only with the first two crimes, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office attempted to drop the charges, but Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott ordered them to be arraigned anyways. This did not please Suffolk D.A. Rachael Rollins, who successfully petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court to overturn the judge’s decision. “By compelling arraignment in every case, the judge punished the exercise of individuals’ First Amendment right to protest,” Rollins said in a statement. “At my request, prosecutors used the discretion constitutionally allocated to the executive branch to triage cases and use our resources most effectively to protect public safety… For those people now tangled in the criminal justice system for exercising their right to free speech—many of whom had no prior criminal record—I will use the legal process to remedy the judge’s overstepping of his role.”

But from what I observed at the parade, the protesters were not merely exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. They were attempting to prevent the parade marchers, whom they vastly outnumbered, from exercising theirs. Screaming at, swearing at, taunting, and insulting people for expressing a minority viewpoint is not free speech; it is bullying. Some protesters against the parade went so far as to openly advocate violence. According to the Boston Herald, an Antifa member named Jon Crowley said that violence was the only appropriate response to the parade. “We’re covered in black so when we attack these guys we can’t be prosecuted,” Crowley said. “They are fascists, 100%. How else are you going to get them to shut up?”

News flash: you do not have a right to get people to “shut up” when you disagree with their views. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment. People who attempt to silence and bully those with unpopular views should, when their actions rise to the level of breaking the law, be prosecuted as zealously and punished as severely as the law allows. Situations like what happened at the parade are the least appropriate situation for prosecutors to consider dropping charges. Also, contrary to what D.A. Rollins implied in her statement, public safety should not be the most important priority of the D.A.’s office; justice should be. And the most important part of justice is standing up for the rights of individuals (such as the parade marchers) against those who would trample on them (such as the jeering mobs of protesters).

John Ciccone, editor of South Boston Today, expressed his thoughts in an emailed statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: “It is the opinion of this newspaper and the overwhelming majority of readers heard from on this matter that the position and action Suffolk County DA Rollins has taken is absolutely wrong. In regard to the members of the so called ANTIFA organization, DA Rollins’ actions encourages the thug like violence of that group, who routinely have denied the rights of free speech and legal and peaceful protest of those they disagree with, not only in Boston during last weekend’s incidents, but in cities all across the nation. Those members of ANTIFA should be made an example of and be prosecuted to the full extend of what the law allows and if found guilty, given the maximum penalty. The message sent out should be loud and clear that they will not be allowed to come into Suffolk County and attack civilians and members of law enforcement without paying a heavy price for those actions.”

Continue reading “Additional thoughts on Straight Pride Parade, protests, and District Attorney”

bookmark_borderStraight Pride Parade protesters demonstrate intolerance and hypocrisy

On Saturday, August 31, a Straight Pride Parade and rally took place in Boston. This provided an opportunity for so-called liberals to take to the streets and demonstrate their intolerance and hypocrisy.

The protesters chanted things such as “Boston hates you,” “go away,” “f*** you,” and “Nazi scum, get off our streets.” They ridiculed the fact that fewer people attended the parade than the protests against it. And they ridiculed the classical music that played as rally organizers waited for more supporters to arrive, saying “Your music is 500 years old, just like your values.” (What does how old values are have to do with whether they are right or wrong?) They taunted police officers, asking “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” (as if protecting an unpopular minority against a bullying majority is a bad thing). They pointed their middle fingers as the parade made its way down Boylston Street and as the rally began on City Hall Plaza. One protester screamed, “What do you have to be proud of? What have you done?” (Can you imagine what the reaction would be if someone asked this of gay pride demonstrators?)

Continue reading “Straight Pride Parade protesters demonstrate intolerance and hypocrisy”

bookmark_borderGetting rid of guns at the Olympics is a terrible idea

After the New Zealand shooting, I saw an article by sports journalist Alan Abrahamson titled, “At the Olympics: no more guns,” in which he argues exactly what the title would suggest. Abrahamson says that the International Olympic Committee should get rid of shooting, which has been part of the Summer Olympics since 1896, as well as possibly modern pentathlon and biathlon as well.

“The Olympics is about something bigger than each of us and all of us,” he writes. “A higher cause, if you will. Shooting is not that.” Shooting should be eliminated, he says, “as a matter of promoting the best of humankind.”

I could not disagree more.

Getting rid of shooting at the Olympics is just another example of prioritizing safety over freedom, another example of punishing all gun owners for the actions of an individual murderer. Punishing innocent people does not represent the best of humankind and is not a higher cause that anyone should aspire to.

As for Abrahamson’s claim that the inclusion of shooting and biathlon “normalizes and glamorizes the use of firearms,” well… there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason why the use of firearms should be viewed as abnormal in any way, and there’s nothing wrong with positively portraying skilled marksmanship and responsible firearms use.

“A gun inherently is a violent instrument,” Abrahamson writes. Although acknowledging that swords and bows and arrows (which are also used in Olympic sports) can be violent instruments, he claims “a firearm is different.”

But it really isn’t. Guns, swords, and bows and arrows can all be used for evil purposes. In and of themselves, however, they do not hurt anyone. All types of weapons are simply tools that can be used for evil or good. Guns are more powerful and efficient tools than lower-tech weapons, but that does not make them morally bad or worthy of being singled out.

Abrahamson compares the potential elimination of guns to the change from shooting real pigeons at the 1900 Olympics in Paris to clay pigeons. “In the 21st century,” he writes, “we have to ask – why?” But the question that should be asked with respect to having guns in the Olympics is not “why” but “why not?” Guns do not hurt anyone by existing. Unlike in years past when real birds were killed, today’s competitive shooters do not hurt anyone by practicing their sport. The burden of proof should be on those seeking to get rid of guns, not those seeking to keep them.

Anyone who truly believes in the Olympic values of “excellence, friendship, respect and, by extension, tolerance,” would welcome the inclusion of a wide variety of sports, including shooting. Every sport is going to have detractors for one reason or another, and the beautiful thing is that no one is forced to watch or participate in a sport that he or she does not like. It is wrong for competitive shooters to be deprived of a chance to compete on a world stage, and Olympic fans such as myself to be deprived of the chance to watch amazing contests of marksmanship and skill, because of some people’s personal dislike of guns.

The right thing to do in response to a mass shooting or other tragedy is to punish and blame the person who did it, not to blame the weapon or punish innocent fans and athletes.

H/T: Firearms Policy Coalition Facebook page

bookmark_borderCollege admissions scandal does not justify affirmative action

I don’t think anyone would dispute that committing fraud in order to help your child get into college is wrong. Cheating on the SATs is obviously unfair, as is and bribing coaches to designate a student as a star athlete when he or she is not. Parents and college consultants who commit fraud should be punished, as the U.S. Attorney’s office is doing by bringing charges in this case. But it is wrong to draw the conclusion, from the actions of a few dishonest people, that all rich people are privileged and undeserving of the success that they have achieved.

For example, Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham writes, “There’s no greater system of affirmative action in America than the one designed to benefit the wealthy and well-connected, especially if they’re white.” She preposterously states that “unless it all comes undone – which is maddeningly rare – a rich kid’s success is always chalked up to his or her hard work and personal sacrifice.” In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. The media is filled with stories lauding people from disadvantaged backgrounds who achieved success, while people from wealthy backgrounds are stigmatized as lazy, entitled, and lacking in grit. It is assumed that their lives are nothing but ease and luxury and that their success is a result of their family connections and access to expensive lessons, summer camps, and college admissions counselors.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham argues that the college admissions scandal shows why affirmative action is needed. But this would just be replacing one form of unfairness with another. Yes, the actions of those arrested in the fraud case are wrong. And other, perfectly legal advantages that benefit rich students, such as giving preference to children of donors, are also unfair to other applicants. But why is the answer to this yet another form of discrimination? Giving preference to people simply for being non-white is equally unfair. In today’s college admissions system, those at the top and those at the bottom of the income ladder receive unfair advantages, the former group through money and social networks and the latter group through programs, admissions policies, and financial aid policies designed specifically to benefit them. It is those in the middle who are disadvantaged, with access to neither the social networks that many wealthy people have, nor the charitable and government programs for which the poor are eligible. Both of these forms of unfairness should be abolished.

A Boston Globe editorial went so far as to criticize the fact that colleges take athletic achievement into account in the admissions process. “Reserving spots for athletes is often a way of rewarding the rich,” the editorial states. “While there may be some inner-city squash or fencing or water polo teams, we’re going to go out on a limb and say there are probably not many…  Reserving spots for sailors may not officially be the same thing as reserving spots for rich people – but c’mon.” This is just insulting to students who excel at these sports. Admitting athletes in sports played by a high percentage of rich people is not the same as reserving spots for rich people – these students are being rewarded for their athletic ability, not for their family income. To dismiss fencers, squash players, polo players, and sailors as being granted admission merely because they tend to be rich minimizes these athletes’ talent and achievements.

No one chooses the economic circumstances into which they are born. It’s not as if a person is doing something wrong by being born into a rich family. Why should people who have the fortune (misfortune?) of being born to wealthy parents be punished for something over which they have no control? Yet that is exactly what happens when people treat wealthy students as inherently undeserving of success.

Why not have a system where colleges simply admit students based on merit, without regard to their race, ethnicity, or economic circumstances? Of course, merit is difficult to define, and it would be impossible to reach a unanimous decision about how the various factors – grades, test scores, musical, artistic, or athletic talent, extracurricular achievements, essay, and interview, just to give a few examples – should be weighed. But everyone should be able to agree that race has nothing to do with merit, not do social networks or parents’ decisions to donate money to a college. We should be striving to have a college admissions system that judges students on their individual merit, not one that adds one form of unfairness on top of another.

bookmark_borderBack pay for federal workers is an issue of fairness

Since the government shutdown (temporarily, at least) came to an end, Representative Ayanna Pressley introduced a bill – known as the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act – which would provide back pay to  contract employees just like those who work directly for the federal government.

“This is about dignity, this is about fairness, this is about justice,” Pressley said.

I agree with this statement, but not in the way Pressley meant it. True fairness would be for none of the employees furloughed during the shutdown to receive back pay.

After all, during the five weeks the federal government was shut down, neither contract employees nor federal employees were working. For them to get paid as if they were working this entire time is not fair to all of the other workers across the country – in the private sector and for state and local governments – who were not affected by the shutdown. It is even less fair to the government employees, such as TSA agents and air traffic controllers, who were forced to work without pay during the shutdown. Nor is it fair to taxpayers for the government to take their hard-earned money and use it to pay people for work they did not perform.

Yes, it is inconvenient to suddenly be furloughed from work. For people who do not have savings in the bank, it can be difficult or impossible to pay bills. But there is no right to receive continuous employment and pay from the federal government. The government has every right to discontinue, either temporarily or permanently, any federal job(s). This is disappointing for the affected employees, but it is a risk that people assume when they work for the federal government. There is nothing unfair about  it.

Additionally, for people to temporarily or permanently lose their jobs is something that happens in the private sector all the time and is not treated as a tragedy but simply part of the economy. Every day, companies go out of business, lay off workers, cut their hours, or furlough them based on changing market conditions. The vast majority of time, newspapers do not run front page articles about the suffering faced by these workers and their families. Restaurants did not offer free meals to racetrack employees when it was announced that Suffolk Downs lost out on the casino license and was going to be closing. No one has suggested paying workers at the now-closed Necco plant for all the weeks they would be working had the factory remained open. But that’s exactly what is happening for federal employees. Being out of work is a hardship for anyone. Why should government workers be exempt?

Supporters of back pay say that government employees should be compensated for the wages that they missed out on. But giving people full pay for not working goes way beyond compensating them. It is the equivalent of giving them five extra weeks of paid vacation. It is a windfall, a boon, a reward, a huge extra benefit, delivered at taxpayers’ expense and denied to the federal employees forced to work without pay as well as to all other workers across the country. Furloughed government employees got to have five weeks of free time, which they could spend pursuing their hobbies, resting, exercising, or doing anything they wanted. True, they did not choose this free time and most would likely have preferred to continue working than to miss out on their paychecks. But this does not change the fact that to pay them for this time is completely unfair to everyone else who spent the time working.

bookmark_borderAnti free speech bullies strike again

On Saturday, anti free speech bullies staged another shameful display of intolerance in Boston. About a year after 40,000 people decided to protest against a small free speech rally on the Boston Common, a similar demonstration of bullying happened at City Hall Plaza, where 300 members of “Stand Against Hate Boston” attempted to drown out about 30 free speech advocates.

According to news reports, the counterprotesters’ goal was to disrupt the rally and to shout down its speakers. They chanted “cops and Klan go hand in hand” at police officers. One berated a reporter who was attempting to interview a rally attendee, shouting “There aren’t two sides here; they’re Nazis.” Anti free speech protest organizer Peter Berard said, “We’re trying to show that Boston is no place for their hate.”

These words and actions are completely hypocritical.

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with the views expressed at the rally, but disrupting the event and attempting to drown out its speakers goes well beyond expressing your own views. It is an act of aggression and intolerance against people whose only crime is holding different opinions than you.

By openly stating that Boston is “no place for” the free speech rally, the protest organizer displayed his intolerance for anyone who happens to hold different beliefs from him. So did the individual who yelled at the reporter that “there aren’t two sides here.” Even if the rallygoers were Nazis, which they aren’t, there are always two sides, and to claim otherwise is the ultimate in bigotry. The entire point of freedom of speech is that there is a variety of possible opinions on every issue, and everyone should have the opportunity to make their views heard. Counterprotesters openly voiced the sentiment that their opinions are the only legitimate ones and that people with different opinions do not belong in the city of Boston. I can’t think of anything more intolerant or more hateful than that.

Even the coverage by the Boston Globe was biased, with the words “free speech” appearing in quotation marks within the headline and throughout the article. Obviously, the reporters are perfectly welcome to question the opinions expressed at the rally. But to question what the rally is even about? For every political event, protest, or rally that I can remember, the media has simply taken at face value the event’s stated topic. To refuse to do so here conveys a tone of contempt and ridicule that is not appropriate for a news article. Saturday’s event was not a “free speech” rally. It was a free speech rally. A concept that too many people in Boston and beyond don’t seem to understand or value.

bookmark_borderDismissal of inauguration protest charges is a defeat for justice

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia recently dismissed charges against all remaining people arrested for the destructive protests against President Trump on his inauguration day. Originally, 234 people were arrested for allegedly participating in acts of vandalism that included setting fires and smashing storefronts with bricks and crowbars, resulting in injuries to 6 police officers. Some of those defendants pleaded guilty, some went to trial and were either acquitted or had hung juries, and the rest had their charges dismissed.

The reason why so many of these people were allowed to go free makes sense: the government was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the people arrested were actually the people who committed the acts of vandalism. Videos from body cameras, cell phones, and security cameras were not clear enough for jurors to definitively identify the vandals, and the defendants successfully argued that they were just protesting peacefully and shouldn’t be blamed for other people’s actions.

However, it still remains true that someone set the fires and smashed the storefronts in Washington, D.C. on inauguration day. And it’s a defeat for justice and fairness that the people who did that – aside from one defendant who was sentenced to 4 months in prison – will escape punishment.

The wrongfulness of the vandals’ conduct has been largely ignored by anti-Trump folks in their celebration of the dismissal of the charges. For example, Natasha Lennard at The Intercept praises the protesters’ “united front” which “meant the government could not weaponize co-defendants to bolster their weak case.” She mentions that the innocent defendants must have been tempted to “assert that they were in fact the law-abiding ‘good protesters,’ while actively condemning and drawing attention to the actions of a few window-breakers” and praises their decision not to do this.

But condemning the actions of the window-breakers is exactly what the other protesters should be doing. To destroy the property of innocent people is morally wrong. By failing to condemn the property damage, the anti-Trump movement is essentially saying that the property damage is okay. No one should be okay with, or want to be associated with, people who decided that their hatred of Trump and his policies was more important than the rights of innocent people.

The arrested protesters complain about the “trauma” that they have “suffered,” but did any of them think for a second about the suffering of the innocent people whose property was destroyed?

Countless people have been arrested and imprisoned for “victimless crimes” that should not be crimes at all, such as drug use, driving without a license, gun possession without a license, and failure to pay taxes. Destroying innocent people’s property, on the other hand, is precisely the type of action that the legal system was created to punish. It’s unfortunate that in this case, there wasn’t enough evidence to determine with certainty who perpetrated the barbaric actions of inauguration day. But that doesn’t make those actions any less wrong. As D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said, “In the American criminal justice system, sometimes the bad guys win. That’s what happened in this case.”

bookmark_borderStarbucks protests are much ado about nothing

In today’s society, there are so many things to be outraged about, from the medical system to taxes to technology’s erosion of privacy rights. It’s puzzling to me that out of all the outrageous things happening in the world, so many people are outraged about the fact that two people, who happen to be black, were arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave a Starbucks.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the two men were at Starbucks, where they were planning to meet someone. They asked to use the restroom and were told no, as store policy is not to allow people to use the restroom unless they buy something. A little later, an employee went to their table and asked if they would like to order something. They said no. Because they didn’t buy anything, they were asked to leave. They refused. They were asked to leave two more times and continued to refuse, and eventually a manager called the cops.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has called this incident “reprehensible” and people have been boycotting and protesting the coffee chain, saying things like “Shame on you Starbucks.”

In my opinion, this reaction is completely excessive. Perhaps calling the cops was a bit of an overreaction, but it’s entirely reasonable to kick someone out of a café or restaurant if they aren’t buying anything. Perhaps the cops wouldn’t have been called if the two men were white; perhaps they would have been. There’s no way to know. The Starbucks protests are an example of the tendency to assume, that if anything bad happens to someone black, it must have happened because they are black.

An opinion piece by the Boston Globe’s Renee Graham exemplifies this attitude. “To be black is to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time because, in America, there is never a right place for black people,” she wrote. “Everything black people do is weighted by irrational white fear. It’s mentally exhausting to always be on guard, even during mundane moments.” About an incident where a person, who happened to be black, was tragically shot by a suspicious homeowner after knocking on the door to ask for directions, she wrote, “Even with my lousy sense of direction, I wouldn’t run the risk of ending up in jail or dead because somebody criminalized my blackness.”

This is completely nonsensical and has no basis in reality. All of America is the right place for black people, as well as people of any race. No one “criminalizes blackness.” There is no reason for people of any race to feel that they need to be constantly on guard to avoid ending up dead or in jail. Police brutality can happen to people of any race. So can tragic misunderstandings. It’s no fun to be mentally exhausted, but Graham is mentally exhausting herself for no reason.

“Nothing will ever change until a majority of white people in this nation stop perceiving black existence as sinister and suspicious,” Graham continues. “Talking about racism may hurt white people’s feelings, but their unchecked racism continues to endanger our black lives.”

But a majority of white people has never perceived black existence as sinister or suspicious. Graham is seeing racism where it does not exist, and she is insultingly dismissing differing opinions as “hurt feelings.” Not to mention the fact that by writing of “irrational white fear” and white people’s “unchecked racism,” Graham is actually being racist. Something is wrong with our society when anything that even remotely resembles racism against blacks – such as being kicked out of Starbucks – is considered “reprehensible,” while blatant racism against whites is considered perfectly fine.

bookmark_borderGun rights supporters are not prostitutes

In today’s Boston Globe, Kevin Cullen wrote what is possibly the most offensive column that has ever been written, by any author, in any newspaper or publication.

“If only we really could throw a red challenge flag in the Congress to demand that the paid prostitutes for the NRA would be forced to sit and watch a ceaseless loop of video, replaying every school shooting since Columbine,” he writes. “Maybe a long, extended viewing of this madness, like a video waterboarding, would persuade the frauds in Congress to do their duty.”

He accuses members of Congress of “taking NRA money like gimlet-eyed hookers” and calls people who support the Second Amendment “morally bankrupt,” “utterly corrupt,” and “as nuts as Nikolas Cruz.”

It is infuriating to read and hear again and again, in newspapers, online, and on TV, these repeated personal attacks on people who support gun rights. Some people believe that the answer to mass shootings is to pass laws restricting individual rights in order to make our society safer; some (including myself) believe that individual rights come first. Regardless of what you believe, there is absolutely no reason to call people who hold different opinions “prostitutes” or “hookers” or to suggest that they be subjected to torture. This type of language is beyond offensive and unacceptable.

Enough with the all-too-common assumption that members of Congress who oppose new gun control laws are acting either out of cowardice, or because of donations from the NRA. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible for another person to actually hold an opinion that is different from your own? As difficult as it is to believe, some members of Congress actually believe that their duty is to uphold individual rights, not to sacrifice them in the name of safety. As shocking as this may be, it is possible for a human being to engage in deliberate, rational, independent thought and arrive at a belief that is different from yours. The fact that someone has different moral beliefs than you does not make them insane, corrupt, or morally bankrupt (sticking to one’s beliefs in the face of insults and criticism is the exact opposite of morally bankrupt), and it certainly doesn’t make them a prostitute.

 

bookmark_borderHarvest Box idea does not equal “trashing the poor”

In the Boston Globe yesterday, columnist Yvonne Abraham made an unjustified and hypocritical attack on the idea of giving food stamp recipients a monthly box of food instead of EBT cards. The Trump administration came up with this proposal, called “America’s Harvest Box,” which would involve replacing at least part of recipients’ EBT benefits with food delivered to their door.

There are legitimate differences of opinion about whether this would save the government money, and there’s definitely an argument that this would inconvenience recipients by providing them with food that isn’t necessarily to their liking instead of allowing them to choose what they want from the grocery store.

However, Abraham is out of bounds when she claims that the Trump administration’s reason for introducing this proposal is not to actually enact it but to “set a useful tone, furthering the narrative that those on public assistance are morally dubious, lazy, and not to be trusted.” Disagreeing with a policy idea is fine, but Abraham is ascribing motivations to the Trump administration with absolutely no evidence. She calls supporters of the Harvest Box idea “policy sadists,” motivated by a “nasty stereotype.” She calls the idea “patronizing,” “ugly,” and “insulting.” She criticizes Republicans because they allegedly “balloon deficits by giving tax cuts to the rich even as they trashed the poor” and tells them to “lay off SNAP recipients.”

Personally, when it comes to my opinions about welfare programs, the main thing I care about is for the government to spend as little money as possible. This is also the motivation behind the Harvest Box. There’s nothing sadistic, nasty, patronizing, ugly, or insulting about wanting to save money. It has nothing to do with any stereotypes and nothing to do with how hardworking or trustworthy recipients are. It has nothing to do with trashing anyone. It’s simply about what financially makes the most sense.

To make things worse, when discussing corn and sugar subsidies, Abraham writes, “Only the poor are stigmatized for eating the dreck marketed relentlessly to all; not Trump, whose diet is appalling.” First of all, this statement is false: when Abraham, a columnist in a major newspaper, describes Trump’s eating habits as “appalling,” then Trump’s eating habits are indeed being stigmatized, at least by one newspaper columnist. Additionally, this is hypocritical. Abraham uses words such as “nasty” and “ugliness” to describe a policy idea that she disagrees with, yet by choosing to call another person’s eating habits “appalling,” she is the one being nasty and insulting.

How about voicing and arguing for your opinions without personally attacking those who disagree with you?