Episode #640: The Alphabet Soup Committee
First Broadcast: 6/24/13
Edward Snowden exposed a massive telephone and Internet spying operation by the U.S. National Security Agency, which is clearly in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The NSA says its program has prevented "dozens of terrorist events," but at least two Senators on the Intelligence Committee say they haven't seen any evidence of that. Besides, considering how meaningless the word "terrorism" has become in the last decade, how do we even know who the NSA is defining as a so-called "terrorist" in the first place? If Bradley Manning and Assata Shakur are both supposed to be examples of Public Enemy Number One, then I think the Obama administration's judgement on these matters is erroneous at best.
Episode #641: To Whom, Father?
First Broadcast: 7/8/13
Mostly, we spend time discussing how President Obama is apparently trying to piss off the entire continent of South America, in seeming retaliation for certain countries there merely entertaining the notion of granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the man responsible for leaking information that has exposed several massive spying operations being perpetrated by the NSA against millions of people both inside and outside of the United States. First, Ecuador finds a bug in its London embassy--the same embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is currently residing to avoid possible extradition to the United States. Then, an airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales is diverted from its course and forced to land in Vienna, due to a rumor that Mr. Snowden might have been on board--even though he wasn't. Who started the rumor, and who encouraged various European countries to deny Morales's plane access to their airspace? Again, fingers point to the United States. Well, the joke might be on Obama, since Venezuela ultimately decided to grant asylum to Snowden (after we taped the show, of course). Oh, and the dead guy I voted for? Ted Weiss, RIP.
Episode #642: Mental Poking
First Broadcast: 7/15/13
In my opinion, when it comes to electing a mayor, New Yorkers often seem to choose the candidate with the most interesting personality as their leader, regardless of whether or not their policies truly benefit New Yorkers as a whole. This, I think, explains why mayors Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg got re-elected; their respective opponents were, plainly put, less personable on the whole. For those who would also point to Giuliani's intense anti-crime policies as a valid reason, I would direct them to research which shows a very strong correlation between the amount of lead in a given area and the amount of crime in that same area 20 years later. Sure enough, following the reduction of lead in both paint and gasoline in the United States in the 1970s, reductions in crimes occurred across the board in the U.S. in the 1990s, the same period that covered Giuliani's two terms as mayor. Anyway: What does this have to do with this year's mayoral race? To me, Anthony Weiner seems to have the most interesting personality, compared to all the other current candidates. That doesn't mean I'd necessarily vote for him; it only means that he'll probably win the general election unless some other candidate appears to be more charismatic between now and then. That's also why Eliot Spitzer will probably win the race for comptroller; New Yorkers seem to prefer a candidate with chutzpah--even a candidate with a checkered past like Spitzer's--to anyone else who seems blander in comparison. At least, that's how I see it now. I could be wrong, but the last 30+ years of city elections is hard to argue against.
Episode #643: Cracker With a Gun
First Broadcast: 7/22/13
As you probably know, on July 13, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman "not guilty" of either murder or manslaughter against Trayvon Martin, the young man whom George Zimmerman indisputably shot to death on February 26, 2012. To say that this verdict is both disappointing and depressing is an extreme understatement. Why didn't the jury convict him? Is there really much difference between what happened to Trayvon Martin and what happened to Amadou Diallo, or Patrick Dorismond, or Sean Bell, or Emmett Till for that matter? How can one of the jurors truthfully state that George Zimmerman was "justified" in shooting Trayvon Martin, or that Zimmerman "didn't do anything unlawful," or that Zimmerman "had good in his heart"? How can that juror say that Zimmerman "had a right to defend himself," but not say that Martin also had a right to defend himself? How can that same juror say of Zimmerman and Martin that "both were responsible" for the shooting, when, out of that pair, only Zimmerman was the one who was armed, who followed someone around, and who shot someone to death? Why has this cop-wannabe been given the right to take someone's life, when a police officer in the same situation would likely lose his badge? Why is Zimmerman facing no jail time for killing somone, when a woman who fired warning shots in the same state is now serving a 20-year prison sentence? Perhaps the most unanswered question of this entire incident is this: Even if there was "no doubt" that Zimmerman feared for his life when he killed Trayvon Martin, has anyone bothered to ask if that fear was rational or not? If an agoraphobic has a genuine fear of crowds, would that be a valid excuse for their killing everyone in a crowd? Likewise, if a racist has a genuine fear of black people, does that justify their killing a black person? It's sad that these questions even have to be asked. I hope that in the future I get better answers.
Episode #644: That's What He Said
First Broadcast: 7/29/13
Do so many media outlets really need to spend so much time languishing on every salacious detail of Anthony Weiner's sex life? I know, it's only human to be curious about it, but at the end of the day: does anything about it affect the Second Avenue subway? Or the availability of affordable housing? Or construction on Houston Street? Don't get me wrong: I'll be the first to say that there are plenty of reasons to not vote for Anthony Weiner. All I'm saying is that maybe we should all be focusing on those, instead of dick pics. At the very least, we'd probably have a more informed electorate as a result.
Episode #645: Mucho Credit
First Broadcast: 8/12/13
After detailing the latest encounter between Carlos Danger and one of the other mayoral candidates, I conclude that perhaps Anthony Weiner doesn't have enough of the charisma today that he might have had when he entered the mayoral race a few weeks ago, and that my estimation that he might win the general election may have been a little premature, to say the least. So, how do I think the election might play out now? Well, if voters decide they don't want to choose Weiner because of all the drama he might bring with him to Gracie Mansion, and if they don't want Christine Quinn because she's perceived as Bloomberg II, and if they don't trust John Liu because of his campaign staff's convictions, and if they don't want Bill Thompson because he lost the last time he ran for mayor, then is Bill de Blasio the only candidate left whom voters might want to take a chance with? After that, we touch on how the lengths of feature films have changed over time, a very intriguing new generation of optical disc that Sony and Panasonic are jointly developing, and a settlement that the NYCLU has reached with the NYPD, which will, in the NYCLU's words, "end the NYPDís practice of storing in an electronic database the names and addresses of people who are stopped by police officers, arrested or issued a summons, and subsequently cleared of criminal wrongdoing." Not a bad selection, if you ask me.
Episode #646: Deliberate Indifference
First Broadcast: 8/19/13
This week, we discuss the ruling by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., which confirmed what we at Free New York have been saying for a long time: that the NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk policy is being implemented in a racist manner. From pages 9 & 10 of the opinion, in the Executive Summary:
With respect to both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, one way to prove that the City has a custom of conducting unconstitutional stops and frisks is to show that it acted with deliberate indifference to constitutional deprivations caused by its employees ó here, the NYPD. The evidence at trial revealed significant evidence that the NYPD acted with deliberate indifference.
The opinion is chock full of information to back up that statement. One bombshell in particular caught my eye, on page 55, when an attorney from the Plantiffs (represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights) questioned New York City's "expert" witness on their explanation of why black people in the City were stopped so much more often than white people:
Q. So is it your testimony that law-abiding black people in New York City are more likely to engage in suspicious behavior than law-abiding white people?
A. Iím only saying that thatís the evidence from the stop patterns, which we have said, according to Professor Fagan, are ninety percent apparently justified.
As Judge Scheindlin herself said, "Rather than being a defense against the charge of racial profiling, however, this reasoning is a defense of racial profiling. To say that black people in general are somehow more suspicious-looking, or criminal in appearance, than white people is not a race-neutral explanation for racial disparities in NYPD stops: it is itself a racially biased explanation." There's way more where that came from. Maybe if those who reflexively defend Stop-and-Frisk took the time to read the opinion also, we might actually end up being a little less racially biased overall. (Hey, I can dream, can't I?)
Episode #647: Clashes With Reality
First Broadcast: 9/9/13
Tonight: An election is coming in New York City! We talk about some of the candidates that have caught our eye, including Bill de Blasio, Scott Stringer, Daniel Squadron, Letitia James, Julie Menin, and Gale Brewer, for starters. Of course, this wouldn't be complete without yet another rant about Bloomberg, but he doesn't take up the whole half hour, I swear.