Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michael Bloomberg

Soda Ban and the Government Leviathan

In recent decades, the judiciary has been at the forefront of efforts to expand the power of government and to restrict the rights of the individual citizen. But today at least one judge has struck a blow against the nanny state and its billionaire advocate. Justice Milton A. Tingling of the New York State Supreme Court handed down a ruling today that prevents the city of New York from putting into effect Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s law banning the sale of certain sizes of sugared drinks. While Bloomberg’s administration plans to appeal the decision, for now the effort to prevent New Yorkers from making a choice about what kind and what amounts of drinks to consume has been shelved.

Tingling rightly blasted the law as “arbitrary and capricious” since the text of the law was a confused mess. Only some types of sugared drinks were targeted for the new rules and the sales would only be restricted in some types of establishments. The legislation seemed designed to mandate “uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.” Moreover, the loopholes within the rule effectively defeated the purpose of the entire endeavor.

But Tingling’s critique was not merely about the poor drafting of the law. Far more important was the city’s decision to give itself far-ranging power to act in the name of public health. By saying it had the right to tell people how much soda they could drink in this manner it was establishing a government monster “that would leave its authority to define, create, mandate and enforce limited only by its own imagination.” The result would be to “create an administrative Leviathan.” In doing so, the judge highlighted the fact that this controversy isn’t about whether sugared drinks are healthy but whether the impulse to do good gives Bloomberg, New York or any legislature or government bureaucrat unlimited power to restrict individual rights.

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In recent decades, the judiciary has been at the forefront of efforts to expand the power of government and to restrict the rights of the individual citizen. But today at least one judge has struck a blow against the nanny state and its billionaire advocate. Justice Milton A. Tingling of the New York State Supreme Court handed down a ruling today that prevents the city of New York from putting into effect Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s law banning the sale of certain sizes of sugared drinks. While Bloomberg’s administration plans to appeal the decision, for now the effort to prevent New Yorkers from making a choice about what kind and what amounts of drinks to consume has been shelved.

Tingling rightly blasted the law as “arbitrary and capricious” since the text of the law was a confused mess. Only some types of sugared drinks were targeted for the new rules and the sales would only be restricted in some types of establishments. The legislation seemed designed to mandate “uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.” Moreover, the loopholes within the rule effectively defeated the purpose of the entire endeavor.

But Tingling’s critique was not merely about the poor drafting of the law. Far more important was the city’s decision to give itself far-ranging power to act in the name of public health. By saying it had the right to tell people how much soda they could drink in this manner it was establishing a government monster “that would leave its authority to define, create, mandate and enforce limited only by its own imagination.” The result would be to “create an administrative Leviathan.” In doing so, the judge highlighted the fact that this controversy isn’t about whether sugared drinks are healthy but whether the impulse to do good gives Bloomberg, New York or any legislature or government bureaucrat unlimited power to restrict individual rights.

Let’s specify that drinking large amounts of sugared drinks is unhealthy and that obesity has become a serious health problem in the United States. The government’s duty to protect public health does give it the right to ban certain types of dangerous substances. But even if the consumption of large amounts of sugar is bad for us, that doesn’t mean New York City, or any municipality that wants to turn itself into a nanny state, should have the ability to tell citizens how much of a legal substance they can or cannot eat or drink so long as doing so does not create an imminent danger to public safety–as with alcohol.

The soda ban was poorly drafted and created an inconsistent and hypocritical set of rules that wouldn’t have done much, if anything, to make anyone healthier. But the issue here is whether the desire to improve our health is sufficient to justify the abrogation of individual rights. The point is not so much the right to imbibe 32-ounce drinks at the movies as it is whether there is anything the government may not regulate in its zeal to become the food police.

The context for this battle is the shift in opinion in which health has replaced, or rather now serves as a substitute for, virtue in our public square. Smoking is a vile, anti-social habit that poisons the air we breath as well as the lungs of nicotine addicts. But it has now assumed an evil status that was once reserved for ethical or moral transgressions about which a culture of moral relativism now informs us we must be nonjudgmental. But anything that can be branded as unhealthy bears with it the mark of Cain today.

If we are now a nation that treats the fad of organic food as a religious obligation and worships health the way we once celebrated moral behavior or piety, so be it. But if we are to translate these beliefs into law then the same danger applies to other attempts to legislate certain types of morality.

A government that can tell citizens what to eat or drink or how much can be legally consumed is one in which individual liberty is now considered a less important value than the dictates of dieticians. Neither the obesity epidemic nor any other health issue based in individual choice can give New York City, or any other government, such power. We can only hope that Judge Tingling’s ruling stands and prevents further attacks on liberty in New York and any other place where politicians seek to use public health as a lever to abrogate individual rights.

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Bloomberg Has Time for Soda, Not 9-1-1 System

Being the mayor of New York City isn’t easy. As one of the largest cities in the world as well as one of the world’s biggest terrorism targets, a major component of the mayor’s job is making sure that the city is ready for whatever, whenever. Last year’s Superstorm Sandy was a test of the city’s preparedness and, according to a poll afterward, about 60 percent of New Yorkers felt that the city was ill-prepared for the events that transpired.

While parts of the city were thrown back to the Stone Age for several weeks, the mayor insisted on holding the New York City marathon as scheduled the weekend after the storm hit. Only after an enormous outcry, including from this blog, did the mayor reconsider the wisdom of having marathoners running through neighborhoods that had no electricity or running water for days.

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Being the mayor of New York City isn’t easy. As one of the largest cities in the world as well as one of the world’s biggest terrorism targets, a major component of the mayor’s job is making sure that the city is ready for whatever, whenever. Last year’s Superstorm Sandy was a test of the city’s preparedness and, according to a poll afterward, about 60 percent of New Yorkers felt that the city was ill-prepared for the events that transpired.

While parts of the city were thrown back to the Stone Age for several weeks, the mayor insisted on holding the New York City marathon as scheduled the weekend after the storm hit. Only after an enormous outcry, including from this blog, did the mayor reconsider the wisdom of having marathoners running through neighborhoods that had no electricity or running water for days.

After the storm, Seth wrote about how Sandy exposed the mayor’s utter failure to govern:

Stories like this one in the New York Times, which discuss the warnings that the city was vulnerable to a storm like Sandy long before this year’s hurricane hit radar screens, will likely follow Bloomberg as well. And the lack of preparation will be especially inexcusable for Bloomberg, who has stomped around claiming that the storm was a result of the very climate change he has been warning about for years. If he was so sure about coming climate change storms, why wasn’t he ready for this one?

Yesterday the New York Post reported on yet another failure of the Bloomberg administration: the failure to institute a working 9-1-1 emergency telephone system.

Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial $2 billion effort to modernize the 911 system — billed as a cure-all for every emergency-communications ill — was labeled a boondoggle by the city’s own experts two years ago, The Post has learned.

The project “does not have a defined business case” for spending $2 billion on a new 911 system, Gartner Consulting told City Hall in a March 2011 report marked “draft — confidential.”

The consultant’s 45-page report, reviewed by The Post, explained the city was wasting its money by plowing ahead without resolving key problems. It slams the high-tech system for management failures and computer glitches, and clobbers key communications officials for refusing to cooperate and, instead, battling over turf.

The consultants report also found:

* Repeated failures of the emergency-response software were reported but were not fixed.

* The NYPD refused to merge its system for dispatching units with that of the FDNY and the EMS — although that was a key reason for creating the new system. And the departments would not work together to create a unified management structure for the new system.

* The city agencies involved in the plan would not assist the system’s architects in setting up the new 911 network.

The document has not only been kept from the public but was also withheld from auditors from the City Comptroller’s Office, who spent more than a year analyzing the mammoth project.

“If the city withheld any documents from my office during the course of our audit into the 911 system, they violated the City Charter,” Comptroller John Liu told The Post. “The Bloomberg administration should know by now that it can’t sweep its wasteful projects under the rug.”

Over the past several years Nanny Bloomberg’s top priority has been telling New Yorkers what to eat, writing his opinion into law as much as possible. This week restaurants around the city are preparing for what his latest legislation, on soda, will mean for customers. This sign at Dunkin’ Donuts being posted around the city puts into perspective just how ridiculous the new regulations are. While the mayor has spent his tenure regulating diet choices, the city has been struck by a devastating storm for which it was ill-prepared and has built an expensive new 9-1-1 emergency system that cannot communicate between the police, fire and EMS departments.

Keeping the city running and building emergency preparedness mechanisms probably wouldn’t have landed Bloomberg in the papers as often, but it would have been a far more respectable legacy than the one he’s leaving behind.

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Will Democrats Have Their Own Tea Party?

With the help of a massive campaign contribution by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gun control advocate Robin Kelly won the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Jesse Jackson Jr. The result is reason for Bloomberg to crow, but any attempt to interpret the victory of a liberal candidate in an Illinois Democratic congressional primary as a harbinger of a shift in American politics is obviously a stretch. The infusion of more than $2 million into a contest to win what amounts to an urban rotten borough was simply a matter of cash and carry. The fact that Kelly’s opponent once got an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association was motivation enough for Bloomberg to get involved–but even if he hadn’t stepped in, no one who hopes to represent that district was going to be anything but liberal.

As Seth wrote yesterday, figuring out exactly what Bloomberg is up to with his donations is no easy task. But whatever direction the mayor takes, the example of his decisive intervention in a primary battle could turn out to be more influential than it might seem on the surface. Just as conservatives and Tea Party activists have helped shift the Republican Party to the right with threats of primaries funded by outside activists with deep pockets, what Bloomberg has done is to illustrate that liberals can play the same game with similarly problematic consequences for the Democratic Party.

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With the help of a massive campaign contribution by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gun control advocate Robin Kelly won the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Jesse Jackson Jr. The result is reason for Bloomberg to crow, but any attempt to interpret the victory of a liberal candidate in an Illinois Democratic congressional primary as a harbinger of a shift in American politics is obviously a stretch. The infusion of more than $2 million into a contest to win what amounts to an urban rotten borough was simply a matter of cash and carry. The fact that Kelly’s opponent once got an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association was motivation enough for Bloomberg to get involved–but even if he hadn’t stepped in, no one who hopes to represent that district was going to be anything but liberal.

As Seth wrote yesterday, figuring out exactly what Bloomberg is up to with his donations is no easy task. But whatever direction the mayor takes, the example of his decisive intervention in a primary battle could turn out to be more influential than it might seem on the surface. Just as conservatives and Tea Party activists have helped shift the Republican Party to the right with threats of primaries funded by outside activists with deep pockets, what Bloomberg has done is to illustrate that liberals can play the same game with similarly problematic consequences for the Democratic Party.

We’ve spent much of the months since November listening to an endless loop of pundits telling the public that the problem with the Republican Party is that conservatives hijacked it. Republicans who worry about Democrats permanently capturing the center, as well as liberals who don’t wish the party well, have joined in lamenting the influence of conservative donors and activist groups who have financed primary challenges to moderate GOP incumbents. The result is that several winnable seats have been lost by Republicans because of the primary victories of people like Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin. Tea Partiers can answer, with justice, that establishment Republicans were beaten just as soundly as the right-wingers. But it is hard to argue with those who point out that at times the activists have prioritized ideology over electoral sense.

Democrats have looked on at this growing civil war on the right with smug satisfaction. The more the Club for Growth and other conservatives seek to target moderates while Karl Rove and his crowd counterattack, the better they like it. The prospect of the GOP being torn apart by the two factions is fueling Democratic optimism about the 2014 midterms. However, Bloomberg’s decision to turn the Jackson seat into a primary on gun legislation is a sign that Democrats are just as vulnerable to being led down the path of internecine combat as Republicans.

In the past few election cycles, the Democrats have shown greater unity than at perhaps at time in their recent history. They won back control of Congress in 2006 specifically by recruiting moderates to run in the South and the West where traditional liberals would have no chance. That’s left them with seats to defend next year in red states in which their priority must be to hew to the political center rather than to pander to their party’s base.

But if liberal activists are going to really prioritize their campaign for gun control, the result may well be that red-state Democrats who have voted with the NRA are going to be facing some well-funded primary challenges.

The reason why the president’s gun control legislation, including an assault weapons ban, has no chance even in the Democrat-controlled Senate is that many in the majority don’t wish to vote on any bill that will put them out of step with their state’s voters. That means that any trend toward primary challenges to pro-gun Democrats will not just divide their party, but hurt their chances of holding onto the seats that have enabled them to be in charge of the upper body and to gain ground in the House.

An obsession with political purity is not the sole preserve of the right. Should other liberal donors follow Bloomberg’s example and start investing in efforts to purge pro-gun Democrats, they may well be as successful in determining their party’s nominees as he was in Chicago. But when that experiment is applied to seats in competitive districts, the result will be just as disastrous for Democrats as some of the Tea Party’s victories have been for Republicans. Far from welcoming Bloomberg’s deep pockets and obsession with gun control, liberals should realize that he is showing the way toward a more Republican future.

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BDS: Hate Speech, Not Free Speech

Today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg became the latest to weigh in on the issue of allowing college campuses to be used as venues for promotion of the BDS campaign against Israel. Bloomberg, who touts himself as one of the greatest supporters of Israel in New York, claimed that those who condemned the decision of the political science department at the city’s Brooklyn College were, in effect, enemies of free speech. According to the New York Observer, Bloomberg said the following:

“I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “As you know, I’m a big supporter of Israel–as big of a one as I think you can find in the city. But I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”

But contrary to the mayor’s typically highhanded formulation, this is not a free speech issue. Using a public university to promote hate speech in which the one Jewish state in the world is hypocritically singled out for isolation and destruction is not a matter of tolerating a diversity of views. What is so frustrating about the debate about BDS is the willingness of even those who do not support it to treat as a merely one among many defensible views about the Middle East or, as the New York Times referred to it in an editorial on the subject yesterday, a question of academic freedom whose advocates do not deserve to be spoken of harshly. As I wrote last week about a related controversy at Harvard, the BDS movement is not motivated by disagreement with specific Israeli policies or the issue of West Bank settlements. It is an economic war waged to destroy the Jewish state and is morally indistinguishable from more traditional forms of anti-Semitism that do not disguise themselves in the fancy dress of academic discourse.

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Today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg became the latest to weigh in on the issue of allowing college campuses to be used as venues for promotion of the BDS campaign against Israel. Bloomberg, who touts himself as one of the greatest supporters of Israel in New York, claimed that those who condemned the decision of the political science department at the city’s Brooklyn College were, in effect, enemies of free speech. According to the New York Observer, Bloomberg said the following:

“I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “As you know, I’m a big supporter of Israel–as big of a one as I think you can find in the city. But I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”

But contrary to the mayor’s typically highhanded formulation, this is not a free speech issue. Using a public university to promote hate speech in which the one Jewish state in the world is hypocritically singled out for isolation and destruction is not a matter of tolerating a diversity of views. What is so frustrating about the debate about BDS is the willingness of even those who do not support it to treat as a merely one among many defensible views about the Middle East or, as the New York Times referred to it in an editorial on the subject yesterday, a question of academic freedom whose advocates do not deserve to be spoken of harshly. As I wrote last week about a related controversy at Harvard, the BDS movement is not motivated by disagreement with specific Israeli policies or the issue of West Bank settlements. It is an economic war waged to destroy the Jewish state and is morally indistinguishable from more traditional forms of anti-Semitism that do not disguise themselves in the fancy dress of academic discourse.

As Yair Rosenberg noted today in Tablet, the BDS movement has as its declared goal Israel’s destruction via implementation of the Palestinian “right of return.” This is consistent with their overall rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a separate Jewish state and their opposition to any means of self-defense against Palestinian terrorism.

It needs to be understood that those who take such a position are, in effect, denying the Jewish people the same right of self-determination that they support for every other nation on the planet. That is a textbook definition of bias and such bias when used against Jews is called anti-Semitism. That is why the various members of the City Council and New York State legislature who have spoken out on this issue are right to try to exert pressure on Brooklyn College to cancel the event and the Times and Bloomberg are wrong to defend the decision to uphold it.

Were Brooklyn College or any other state institution to hold a conference whose purpose was to oppose integration or the rights of African-Americans with academics who support the agenda of the Ku Klux Klan, there would be no question that this would be considered beyond the pale rather than free speech that deserved defense. The same standard should apply to those who wish to destroy Israel by waging economic warfare on it and its citizens.

Mayor Bloomberg is also wrong that opponents of BDS do their cause a disservice when they attack those who wish to appropriate college campuses for this cause. Rather than treat the BDS movement as an unfortunate but tolerable eruption of anti-Israel agitation or mere dissent about the settlements, it must be labeled for what it is: a hateful movement based in prejudice whose agenda serves the cause of those who wage violent war against the Jewish people. BDS advocates crave the legitimacy that events such as the Brooklyn College event affords them since it allows them to emerge from the fever swamps of the far left where they normally reside.

One may debate Israel’s policies or those of any nation (though it is fair to note that BDS supporters are uninterested in human rights except as that phrase can be manipulated to bolster their war on Israel), but a movement based in denying Jewish rights is anti-Semitism no matter how high-minded its supporters and its useful idiot enablers pretend it to be. Those who cannot draw a line between BDS and legitimate debate are defending hate speech, not free speech.

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Will Liberals Meet Reality on the NYC School Bus Strike?

In the New York Post last week, John wrote an excellent piece on the latest union-taxpayer showdown in New York City–the school bus driver strike that began earlier this month. This battle, like many across the country for oversized compensation for unionized workers that outpaces a municipality’s ability to pay, could shape the financial future of New York City for years to come. In the Post John explained, 

You should watch this one closely, whether you have kids who’ve been kicked off a bus or not, because it’s a sneak preview of what is likely to be coming over the next decade in municipalities across the country.

These workers aren’t city employees. They work for private companies. The city’s contracts with those companies are up in June. The city plans to bid out the work.

It has to. You want it to. Trust me: Under the terms of the current contracts, providing this bus service costs — I hope you’re sitting down before you read this next clause — $7,000 a year per passenger.

That’s seven grand per kid.

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In the New York Post last week, John wrote an excellent piece on the latest union-taxpayer showdown in New York City–the school bus driver strike that began earlier this month. This battle, like many across the country for oversized compensation for unionized workers that outpaces a municipality’s ability to pay, could shape the financial future of New York City for years to come. In the Post John explained, 

You should watch this one closely, whether you have kids who’ve been kicked off a bus or not, because it’s a sneak preview of what is likely to be coming over the next decade in municipalities across the country.

These workers aren’t city employees. They work for private companies. The city’s contracts with those companies are up in June. The city plans to bid out the work.

It has to. You want it to. Trust me: Under the terms of the current contracts, providing this bus service costs — I hope you’re sitting down before you read this next clause — $7,000 a year per passenger.

That’s seven grand per kid.

Predictably, the unions have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money trying to convince parents that their children would be safest in the hands of unionized drivers. The New York Post reported on the statistics regarding bus accidents with supposedly safer unionized drivers yesterday: 

Buses with public-school contracts were involved in more than 1,700 accidents in which the driver was at fault in each of the past five years for which numbers are available, according to statistics compiled by the city’s Department of Education.

The incidents range from minor fender-benders to collisions that resulted in 912 injuries in 2011, the latest year for which stats are available.

A year earlier, there were 1,792 accidents resulting in two deaths and 1,796 injuries.

Despite this bloody record, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 claims its crippling bus strike is being waged in the best interests of its student passengers — because only its members can do the job safely.

While thousands of New York City parents have been inconvenienced, the strike has hit the city’s disabled students the hardest. The New York Daily News reported on the heartbreaking reality for students who rely on school transportation to provide them with physical therapy and social interaction. The strike has left these vulnerable students homebound indefinitely, setting back progress they may have been making not only educationally, but also physically and emotionally. 

The former head of the MTA (the city’s transportation authority), Joe Lhota, recently announced his bid for mayor as a Republican, immediately shaking up the field of contenders. On Fox 5 New York this week Lhota commented on the strike,

These are private sector bus drivers who want to be treated as civil servants. That’s a very, very slippery slope that we’d go down. This is a contract arrangement between a private company… and these bus drivers. These bus drivers aren’t like transit authority workers, they are private sector workers, but they want the same benefits… The mayor is absolutely correct. The courts have held that what the union is asking for is illegal. You should not negotiate when something is illegal. 

The perceived mayoral front-runner, Christine Quinn, refuses to get involved in the debate, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s hard line with the strikers. If the dispute outlasts Bloomberg’s administration (ending in November), which it may, its future under a new mayor is still very much up in the air. Candidates’ stances on the strike could play an outsized role in the race for parents and grandparents inconvenienced for the remaining months of the school year. 

While the strike is a local issue for residents of New York, it is yet another example of how unions across the country, despite claims regarding their competency and dedication, are interested in their own bottom lines and little else. For New Yorkers famous for their extremely liberal voting records, this could be a very rude awakening about the reality of union conflicts across the country.

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The NYPD’s Sky-High Approval Numbers

In April of last year, I mentioned that although former city comptroller Bill Thompson had run a surprisingly close race against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009–despite being vastly underfunded and written off by the national Democratic Party–heading into this year’s race to replace Bloomberg, Thompson quickly found himself the underdog. The presumed frontrunner was (and is) City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

I noted that one major difference between the two was in their respective approaches to the New York City Police Department amid the controversy over the city’s effective “stop and frisk” tactics that helped improve safety in some dangerous neighborhoods. Thompson threatened to fire Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; Quinn recognized the good work of the NYPD, though she expressed modest reservations about “stop and frisk.” I suggested voters would be prepared to punish Thompson and that his position on the NYPD was hurting his poll numbers. Today Quinnipiac released the results of a survey whose findings buttress my argument considerably:

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In April of last year, I mentioned that although former city comptroller Bill Thompson had run a surprisingly close race against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009–despite being vastly underfunded and written off by the national Democratic Party–heading into this year’s race to replace Bloomberg, Thompson quickly found himself the underdog. The presumed frontrunner was (and is) City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

I noted that one major difference between the two was in their respective approaches to the New York City Police Department amid the controversy over the city’s effective “stop and frisk” tactics that helped improve safety in some dangerous neighborhoods. Thompson threatened to fire Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; Quinn recognized the good work of the NYPD, though she expressed modest reservations about “stop and frisk.” I suggested voters would be prepared to punish Thompson and that his position on the NYPD was hurting his poll numbers. Today Quinnipiac released the results of a survey whose findings buttress my argument considerably:

In the wake of the Newtown massacre of the innocents and the growing gun control debate, New York City voters approve 75 – 18 percent of the job Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is doing, his highest approval rating ever, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Voters also approve 70 – 23 percent of the job New York police are doing, the highest score since a 76 – 18 percent approval rating February 7, 2002, in the wake of 9/11, by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll.

Kelly’s approval is 81 – 14 percent among white voters, 63 – 27 percent among black voters and 76 – 18 percent among Hispanic voters. Approval for the police overall is 80 – 14 percent among white voters, 56 – 37 percent among black voters and 67 – 23 percent among Hispanic voters. There is almost no gender gap in approval for Kelly or the police.

Voters disapprove of the police use of the stop-and-frisk tactic 50 – 46 percent.

New York City voters say 63 – 19 percent, including 53 – 31 percent among black voters, that it would positively affect their decision to vote for a candidate for mayor if the candidate promises to ask Kelly to stay as police commissioner.

Voters surely care who their next mayor is, but they seem to care even more who the police commissioner is. This also transcends identity politics, as the results clearly show. Liberals spilled much ink–usually getting the story wrong–in attempts to gin up animosity between the city’s minorities, especially New York’s black population, and the NYPD. Yet black voters overwhelmingly approve of the job Kelly and the NYPD are doing. That may help explain why Thompson, who is black, has gained no traction with voters by trashing the NYPD.

It also explains why Republicans have not stopped trying to convince Kelly to run for mayor. After all, many attributed Bloomberg’s poor showing in the 2009 election to the fact that some New Yorkers were just tired of Bloomberg’s never-ending mayoralty–yet Kelly has been police commissioner for as long as Bloomberg has been mayor, and he’s currently enjoying approval ratings significantly higher than Bloomberg’s. But it also may explain why Kelly keeps resisting the calls to jump in the race. He’s good at his job, New Yorkers agree, and he gets to stay out of the political fray, for the most part. And even though he’s not running in the election, he gets quite the vote of support during the campaign: the more clearly candidates express their approval of the NYPD, the more voters seem inclined to support them. With the mayoral race still wide open, the candidates could do worse than to take Quinnipiac’s free advice.

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Bloomberg’s Quest for a Celebrity Successor

In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

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In December, I wrote about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to find a big-name successor, which focused on Hillary Clinton. Clinton is at the very least keeping her options open for a possible 2016 presidential run, which would have to start far too early to take on a responsibility like running New York City. But according to a report in the New York Times today, Bloomberg has been a one-man search committee, floating not just Clinton but also Ed Rendell, Mortimer Zuckerman, Chuck Schumer, and former Bloomberg deputy Edward Skyler.

That’s quite a list, and says much about how Bloomberg views the job. New York City is the media capital of the world, the front lines of 21st century homeland security, and a powerhouse when it comes to urban policymaking, especially with regard to fighting crime. There’s a reason that, as Rendell put it to the Times, he often hears it described as “the second most difficult job in the country.” There’s no doubt Bloomberg believes this–after all, he’s been in office three terms and still hasn’t gotten it right. But Bloomberg’s opinion of what it takes to run the city diverges both with precedent and the judgment of New Yorkers.

Of that list of five names, Rendell is the most interesting, because he is in some ways both the most and least logical of that list. He was born and raised in New York City. And he was also a (successful) big-city mayor in the Northeast, having run Philadelphia quite competently beginning in 1992, just two years before Rudy Giuliani would begin his first term in New York. But he is also far removed from his New York days, and has a keen understanding of why he would also be a poor choice to run New York City. “I’m not sure how many times I’ve stepped foot in Brooklyn,” he told the Times. “I have no understanding of Queens and no understanding of the Bronx.”

New York City is far more than just Manhattan, a fact which explains why the current crop of mayoral candidates is so underwhelming. The perceived Democratic frontrunner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattanite. There is no viable candidate with strong roots in the outer boroughs. Like it or not, this is what would have made Anthony Weiner the putative frontrunner, had he not stumbled over a sex scandal.

Although Bloomberg has taken Quinn under his wing, these stories are fairly insulting to Quinn, since Bloomberg appears desperate to prevent her succession. And if a Manhattanite barely has the New York street cred to be mayor, a Philadelphia transplant most certainly has even less. Chuck Schumer wouldn’t have this problem, but he’s staying put in the Senate, having a clear shot at the Democrats’ top Senate leadership spot if Harry Reid retires (or is defeated) in 2016.

That leaves, of the five, Skyler and Zuckerman. Skyler is a relative unknown, and it’s far from clear that even with Bloomberg’s backing he could overtake Quinn. That leaves Zuckerman, the controversial billionaire publisher of the New York Daily News. He, too, is flattered by the suggestion but will be passing on the race:

“I would love to be in that job,” said Mr. Zuckerman, a student of policy who has no party affiliation and weighed running for the Senate a few years ago.

He insisted that Mr. Bloomberg’s suggestion had an informal “teasing” feel, even as he acknowledged a longstanding call to public service in New York.

“If I could be appointed, I’d probably be serious about it,” he added, wryly.

This whole quest is a classically Bloombergian love letter to the city. Bloomberg thinks highly of New York, and even more highly of himself. So he wants someone with the star power to keep New York at the top of the map. But New York doesn’t need his help to do so, and all signs point to Bloomberg’s legacy being a failed technocratic experiment anyway.

Bloomberg should notice something about the other candidates who are either running or considering it. In addition to Quinn and other Democrats, former Giuliani aide Joe Lhota is seriously exploring a run. Lhota is leaving his post as a well-respected head of the city’s transportation authority. And Republicans are apparently still trying to get Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to run. Kelly is popular and has obvious real experience running an essential part of city governance. The street-level experience, the granular knowledge of life in New York, and the years spent paying their dues by working to craft city policy are all things they have in common.

If Bloomberg’s time in office has demonstrated anything, it’s that the city would be ill served by a celebrity figurehead. Bloomberg may love New York, but he needs to have more faith in New Yorkers.

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Big Names Still Passing on NYC Mayor’s Race

In a 2009 story about the succession of the Dalai Lama, the New York Times reported that the “search for the present Dalai Lama commenced in earnest in 1935 when the embalmed head of his deceased predecessor is said to have wheeled around and pointed toward northeastern Tibet.” The Times continued: “Then, the story goes, a giant, star-shaped fungus grew overnight on the east side of the tomb. An auspicious cloud bank formed and a regent saw a vision of letters floating in a mystical lake, one of which — Ah — he took to refer to the northeast province of Amdo,” where a young child was found and determined to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Though not quite so fanciful and dramatic, the search for the next mayor of New York City, after two very high-profile mayors who became national figures, sometimes attracts a disproportionate amount of intrigue and suspense. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is alive and well, but he, too, turned his head in an attempt to guide his people to their next leader–and apparently fixed his gaze on Foggy Bottom. The Times reports today:

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In a 2009 story about the succession of the Dalai Lama, the New York Times reported that the “search for the present Dalai Lama commenced in earnest in 1935 when the embalmed head of his deceased predecessor is said to have wheeled around and pointed toward northeastern Tibet.” The Times continued: “Then, the story goes, a giant, star-shaped fungus grew overnight on the east side of the tomb. An auspicious cloud bank formed and a regent saw a vision of letters floating in a mystical lake, one of which — Ah — he took to refer to the northeast province of Amdo,” where a young child was found and determined to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Though not quite so fanciful and dramatic, the search for the next mayor of New York City, after two very high-profile mayors who became national figures, sometimes attracts a disproportionate amount of intrigue and suspense. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is alive and well, but he, too, turned his head in an attempt to guide his people to their next leader–and apparently fixed his gaze on Foggy Bottom. The Times reports today:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has long struggled to imagine a successor with the combination of star power, experience and grit to fill his shoes.

But not long ago, he was struck by an inspiration: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the retiring secretary of state.

In a phone call confirmed by three people, Mr. Bloomberg encouraged Mrs. Clinton to consider entering the 2013 mayor’s race, trading international diplomacy for municipal management on the grandest scale. She would, he suggested, be a perfect fit.

Much about the call, which occurred some months ago, remains shrouded in mystery. But Mr. Bloomberg’s overture to the former first lady highlights the level of his anxiety about the current crop of candidates, his eagerness to recruit a replacement who can rival his stature and his determination to become a kingmaker in the political arena he will soon exit.

Bloomberg was famously unwilling to “soon exit” when his term-limited time in office drew to a close, so he had the rules changed to allow him to stay in office. The people needed him, and no one had yet banned large sodas. And it is something of a testament to this unwillingness to let go that Bloomberg wants to choose his successor. But it is also a reasonable concern: the current crop of candidates is surprisingly underwhelming on the Democratic side, and almost literally empty on the Republican side.

New York City Republicans have apparently failed to convince Police Commissioner Ray Kelly–the city’s most popular major figure, and for good reason–to run on the GOP ticket (or run at all). The old Nixon aide Roger Stone used the opening to push conservative commentator and Daily News columnist S.E. Cupp to run. Cupp, like Hillary on the Democratic side, politely but firmly declined. Another GOP possibility is Joe Lhota, who served under Rudy Giuliani and is currently head of the city’s transportation authority, though he lags in early polls to the Democrats, as does former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion, a former Democrat who served in the Obama administration who is working to make the party switch to run on the GOP ticket.

Hillary Clinton seems to be laying the groundwork early for a 2016 presidential run, which would preclude her from simultaneously running New York City–a mayoralty that is more akin to running a state with a dash of national security frontline policymaking. The job is a tall order, and Clinton seems to have her heart set on the White House for now. But Bloomberg’s choice of Clinton is revealing; though perhaps Hillary would make a good mayor, Bloomberg chose her for all the wrong reasons. The Times continues: “In Mrs. Clinton, it seems, a mayor known for his sometimes unsparing critiques of those in public life sees a globe-trotting problem solver like himself.”

New Yorkers would no doubt cringe at that sentence. When Bloomberg considers himself a globe-trotting problem solver, what he means is someone who spends a lot of time talking about problems that need solving. In fact, Bloomberg’s biggest weakness as a mayor is that he is not a problem solver. As I wrote in the days after superstorm Sandy, Bloomberg had been warning that inclement weather would cause near-unprecedented storm surges. Yet instead of securing the city’s infrastructure or pushing plans to build storm surge barriers, Bloomberg was content to just be a prophet of doom.

The city of New York thrives when in the hands of real problem solvers–like Giuliani, or Ray Kelly at the NYPD. Giuliani was the embodiment of hardheaded practicality, a seeming contradiction but one that explains what it takes to be mayor of New York. Bloomberg’s legacy is already shaky; the last thing he should be doing is trying to find a Davos schmoozer to fill his shoes.

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Cory Booker and the Problem with Social Media-Savvy Politicking

As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

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As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

Booker’s Twitter feed isn’t the only reason for his national fame. He’s a good-humored, well spoken politician willing to tackle persistent, endemic problems and break from the city’s corrupt past. His mastery of social media has also been evidence of a City Hall with a new dedication to responsiveness and good governance.

But it also often descends into gimmickry and hectoring, as it did yesterday. As New York magazine reports:

Cory Booker’s interactions with the denizens of Twitter started out pretty typically on Sunday. First, he told a man whose transgender friends are nervous about moving to Newark that he’d be happy to give them a call, and by the evening he was offering to help a student staying up all night to write a report about him. However, things grew more contentious when he tweeted a bit of ancient Greek wisdom, courtesy of Plutarch: “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” Booker was accused of plotting to redistribute wealth and told “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.” Since simply debating the merits of providing food assistance to impoverished Americans doesn’t fit into Booker’s ridiculously hands-on approach to governing, by the end of the night he’d challenged the Twitter user to a contest in which they’d both try to live off of food stamps for a week.

A challenge to live off of food stamps for a week seems like a great way to gain attention for a cause–until you realize that there’s nothing Booker is really advocating here except more government involvement, this time because the mayor doesn’t believe kids are eating a wholesome breakfast before school. Is he trying to show that you can’t live comfortably on food stamps? I would think that’s a no-brainer; is the purpose of food stamps to give recipients a middle-class living standard?

Is it Booker’s contention that more wealth redistribution is necessary for parents to feed their children healthier food? How does Booker know what parents spend their money on now, and how does he know how they’ll reallocate it if they get a bit more of it?

An energetic, responsive government is supposed to be the attractive alternative to Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state governance next door. At this point, both big-city mayors are advocating for liberal policies and aggressive and invasive paternalism, but the difference is that Bloomberg isn’t hounding his citizens on Twitter, shaming them for daring to dispute the wisdom of a meddlesome government with designs on more of the private sector’s cash.

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Give the Cynicism A Rest

So, exactly what should Chris Christie have said and done when the president of the United States came to New Jersey to see the devastation after Sandy?

Given Obama a Rabin-to-Arafat style, I’m-forced-to-shake-your-hand-but-I’m-going-to-go-soak-mine-in-Clorox-afterwards greeting?

Said, “Thanks for dropping by, Barry. But I’m a Romney guy, and I can’t support your tax-and-spend domestic policy or your lily-livered foreign policy, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out”?

Oh, come on.

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So, exactly what should Chris Christie have said and done when the president of the United States came to New Jersey to see the devastation after Sandy?

Given Obama a Rabin-to-Arafat style, I’m-forced-to-shake-your-hand-but-I’m-going-to-go-soak-mine-in-Clorox-afterwards greeting?

Said, “Thanks for dropping by, Barry. But I’m a Romney guy, and I can’t support your tax-and-spend domestic policy or your lily-livered foreign policy, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out”?

Oh, come on.

The man is the governor of New Jersey. New Jerseyans are dead, or homeless, or without power, or without gas, or without food, or without water — or all of the above. There’s bacteria-laden sludge in the streets. The lovely towns of the Jersey Shore have been decimated.

What’s more, he’s actually from New Jersey, and he actually lives in New Jersey. So maybe he cares just a little about his home and its people — not just as voters, but as neighbors, family, friends and colleagues.

How about this? New Jersey and its citizens are suffering — and are going to go on suffering for a long time to come. It’s Christie’s job to do whatever it takes — including being gracious to Barack Obama — to help his state. And he did it. 

Can we please give the cynicism a rest for just a minute?

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Storm Exposes the Magnitude of Bloomberg’s Failure to Govern

Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.

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Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.

As Fred Siegel writes in his book on the Giuliani years, the mayor “had been talking and thinking about the problem of terrorism—something to which most New Yorkers were oblivious—from literally his first day in office. The city’s largely successful response to 9/11 was the product of years of preparation.”

And it wasn’t just preparation for terrorism. Siegel writes of the behind-the-scenes work that readied the city for just about any anything conceivable. In 1999, a heat wave led to power outages in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan that totaled about 300,000. Giuliani took action to prevent the power outages from taking out Brooklyn as well, and then rallied the city to the Heights. Rather than the looting that had taken place in New York in the past, the city remained under control with Giuliani working around the clock and winning the cooperation of the residents of the Heights.

The city’s Department of Health developed a “syndromic surveillance system” to prepare for chemical or biological attacks. When West Nile virus hit the city (also in 1999), the response was immediate and helped contain the virus. New York’s response, as in other cases, was praised as a model as other cities battled West Nile that year.

Leading up to the Y2K scare, the city, led by Giuliani, Jerry Hauer, the director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota (who now heads the city’s MTA), prepared for several possible terrorist attacks and other emergencies on New Year’s, including a gas attack at the World Trade Center that assumed 1,000 injured. Lhota said they practiced and prepared like a football team. “If any city was ready for trouble,” Siegel writes, “it was New York.”

On New Year’s Eve, while Giuliani was overseeing events in Times Square, Siegel writes:

Hauer and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota were in the World Trade Center command post accompanied by three hundred crisis managers from city departments, Con Edison, Verizon, the Red Cross, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI, and the National Guard. And although the public didn’t know it, the National Guard had been quietly pre-positioning in Brooklyn as part of an emergency plan for evacuating Manhattan.

Nothing happened that night. But Giuliani’s team and the city “had passed the test,” Siegel writes. “Gotham was ready for a future emergency.”

So while it’s true that Bloomberg’s response pales in comparison to that of Giuliani, it’s not just the ability to inspire and the natural instincts of a leader that separate the two men. Stories like this one in the New York Times, which discuss the warnings that the city was vulnerable to a storm like Sandy long before this year’s hurricane hit radar screens, will likely follow Bloomberg as well. And the lack of preparation will be especially inexcusable for Bloomberg, who has stomped around claiming that the storm was a result of the very climate change he has been warning about for years. If he was so sure about coming climate change storms, why wasn’t he ready for this one?

This is the most damning paragraph from that story:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is known worldwide for his broad environmental vision. But one former official said it had been difficult to move from theoretical planning to concrete actions, and it was hoped that the storm this week would change that.

Bloomberg knew the dangers, according to this official, and spent years talking about it in the abstract. But he didn’t take any concrete action, instead satisfied to wag his finger at others.

So yes, Bloomberg is an underwhelming leader in the city’s time of need. But if these reports are true, he has failed this city on a much deeper, and much more consequential, level. Though Bloomberg obviously didn’t learn from his predecessor’s successes, New Yorkers can only hope that the next mayor learns from Bloomberg’s failures.

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A Marathon During a Humanitarian Disaster? Yes, Says Bloomberg

For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.

Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.

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For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.

Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.

In the powerless neighborhoods of New York, especially in the public housing projects, life is beyond recognizable from a week ago. Elevators to high-rise buildings are inoperable, water and sewage is cut off, and there is for many, no end in sight. Yesterday the National Guard arrived to bring food and water for the first time. Residents waited in long lines for hours to claim it. Those who could not make it down flights of stairs to do so, the elderly and disabled, are especially vulnerable.

There is a massive reallocation of resources about to take place. Generators and food trucks are being disbursed this weekend in New York City. For Sandy survivors? No. For runners in the New York City Marathon. Mayor Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to divert desperately needed resources during an unprecedented tragedy to a marathon. The route these runners will take brings them through neighborhoods, past homes and apartments, that were destroyed a week prior. These runners currently have reservations for hotel rooms that are occupied by those displaced from their homes, many hotels are honoring these reservations, and if they are not, the hotels are forced to fight with marathon attendees to keep evacuees housed in their hotels. These runners will be protected by a police department that is already unable to protect homes and businesses from looting.

While Mayor Bloomberg might be happy to give his endorsement to President Obama, it may not be so wise for Obama to tout this endorsement. The outcry over Bloomberg’s handling of Sandy is steadily growing. Before she struck, experts were questioning his preparedness and seriousness about the storm. While he was busy promoting the president yesterday, the bodies of two toddlers in Staten Island were discovered in the marsh, swept out their mother’s arms during the storm. Instead of comforting the family of an off-duty NYPD officer who died protecting his family, prior to that officer’s funeral, Bloomberg was holding yet another press conference.

This weekend’s marathon is the last straw for a city stretched to its limits. Mayor Bloomberg, it’s time to take a lesson from your predecessor. After 9/11, Americans fell in love with Rudy Guliani. That kind of courage and leadership is something this city desperately needs. Through sheer force of will, New Yorkers are pulling through this test, and they will pass it. Mayor Bloomberg, on the other hand, has already failed.

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Bloomberg Endorsement All About Mike

What to make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to wait until there were five days left before the election before endorsing President Obama’s re-election? The ostensible motivation for the move, announced in an op-ed published today in Bloomberg’s own news website, is the mayor’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which he says he believes was the result of climate change. Since Obama buys into the same global warming agenda, which calls for major government interventions into the economy in order to stave off the perceived danger, Bloomberg says that is enough to convince him to back the president even though he disdains his economic agenda and thinks him a weak leader.

Fair enough. If Bloomberg really believes his climate agenda is the No. 1 issue facing the country, rather than the economy or even foreign policy, that is his choice. But it’s hard to see how Bloomberg’s decision will do the president much good. Had the billionaire mayor/mogul backed the president earlier in the process, his financial help via the super PAC he created might have done the president some real good. But even in an age when celebrity/political endorsements are seen as inconsequential, Bloomberg’s will carry even less weight than most. The unpopular mayor won’t impact the outcome in deep blue New York or anywhere else. Nor is it likely that independents who are flocking to Romney because of Obama’s economic failures will change their minds because the former Democrat/Republican wrote an equivocal endorsement on the website named after him. The move is strictly about Bloomberg’s desire for attention.

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What to make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to wait until there were five days left before the election before endorsing President Obama’s re-election? The ostensible motivation for the move, announced in an op-ed published today in Bloomberg’s own news website, is the mayor’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which he says he believes was the result of climate change. Since Obama buys into the same global warming agenda, which calls for major government interventions into the economy in order to stave off the perceived danger, Bloomberg says that is enough to convince him to back the president even though he disdains his economic agenda and thinks him a weak leader.

Fair enough. If Bloomberg really believes his climate agenda is the No. 1 issue facing the country, rather than the economy or even foreign policy, that is his choice. But it’s hard to see how Bloomberg’s decision will do the president much good. Had the billionaire mayor/mogul backed the president earlier in the process, his financial help via the super PAC he created might have done the president some real good. But even in an age when celebrity/political endorsements are seen as inconsequential, Bloomberg’s will carry even less weight than most. The unpopular mayor won’t impact the outcome in deep blue New York or anywhere else. Nor is it likely that independents who are flocking to Romney because of Obama’s economic failures will change their minds because the former Democrat/Republican wrote an equivocal endorsement on the website named after him. The move is strictly about Bloomberg’s desire for attention.

Whether Bloomberg’s views on climate change are correct is a debate for another day. But the notion that President Obama’s “leadership” on the issue has been a major factor in his administration, or that it will accomplish much to further the “green” agenda in the next four years if he should be re-elected, doesn’t hold water. Obama’s ideas about green energy amount to feckless kowtowing to the green lobby on necessary economic projects like the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and funneling billions to Democratic fundraisers to support boondoggles like Solyndra. None of that will do much to affect the climate one way or the other. Moreover, Bloomberg knows very well that Congress won’t support cap and trade in the foreseeable future. If he really wanted to do something to protect New York from future disasters like Sandy, he might call for the construction of a sea barrier that could, at least in theory, shield the harbor from flooding, as this NPR report details.

Bloomberg also mentions issues like gay marriage and abortion, on which he sides with Obama. But, again, it’s not as if he pulls much weight with voters who prioritize those issues who were, no doubt, already on the president’s side.

The whole point of such a last-minute message for Obama is to maximize the publicity attached to it during a week in which political news rivets the country. Though many around the nation may not be aware of it, Bloomberg’s third mayoral term has been widely seen as a disaster, as this COMMENTARY article by Fred Siegel makes clear. Bloomberg’s tactics of buying off his critics with mammoth charitable donations has worn thin over the years, and all that’s left is a plutocrat/media mogul mayor attempting to impose his idea of a nanny state on the city with soda bans and impractical traffic plans for midtown Manhattan. In that sense, President Obama is the perfect candidate for Bloomberg, as he exemplifies the same big government vision in which individual rights and the market are pushed aside for the sake of elitist rule. Bloomberg is looking for another perch from which he can push ordinary Americans around after he leaves the mayor’s office, and kissing up to Obama and garnering attention for his pet causes is just the way to maximize his hopes of being something more than the name of a cable business network and various publications.

There’s one more point to be made about Bloomberg’s endorsement. The mayor was not the least bit shy about using the hurricane as the justification for his decision. But even if you buy into the unproven theories in which any kind of weather — hot or cold, windy or calm, wet or dry — can be seen as proof of global warming caused by humanity, is there any doubt that what he did was a blatant effort to politicize a tragedy that ought to be above politics? But, as with so much else, when you’re a liberal billionaire posing as an independent, you can ignore the same rules that would sink another mortal.

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OWS: The Vagrants that Stole Halloween

To those outside of Lower Manhattan, it appears Occupy Wall Street has faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for some residents of New York City, the movement is still maintaining a presence on public property. After finally being ejected from Zuccotti Park after months of vandalism, violence and disruption, OWS hobos — I mean protesters — have taken up residence on the sidewalks outside Trinity Church, a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Episcopalians, not exactly known for being Christianity’s stalwarts of conservatism, aren’t happy about it.

This week Trinity Church announced that it would be canceling its annual Halloween celebration because the encampment makes the area around the church increasingly unsafe. In a statement issued on Sunday, Trinity’s Rev. James Cooper stated “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.” Fox News went on to report,

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To those outside of Lower Manhattan, it appears Occupy Wall Street has faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for some residents of New York City, the movement is still maintaining a presence on public property. After finally being ejected from Zuccotti Park after months of vandalism, violence and disruption, OWS hobos — I mean protesters — have taken up residence on the sidewalks outside Trinity Church, a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Episcopalians, not exactly known for being Christianity’s stalwarts of conservatism, aren’t happy about it.

This week Trinity Church announced that it would be canceling its annual Halloween celebration because the encampment makes the area around the church increasingly unsafe. In a statement issued on Sunday, Trinity’s Rev. James Cooper stated “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.” Fox News went on to report,

Linda Hanick, a spokeswoman for Trinity Church, said nine people have been arrested in connection to the encampment in the past two weeks, including a man who was arrested after he put an air horn to the ear of a longtime maintenance superintendent at the church on Oct. 11. The maintenance worker was “traumatized” by the incident, she said.

“The sidewalk is owned by the city, so we don’t have the legal power to remove people from the sidewalk, but it’s our responsibility to clean it,” she said. “We hose down the sidewalk and throw away the trash.”

Those cleanings, which occur twice daily at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., typically lead to a “tense situation,” Hanick said.

This isn’t Occupy’s first run-in with Trinity, either. After their eviction from Zuccotti Park, Occupiers stormed a vacant lot owned by Trinity, breaking their locks in order to gain access to the property. The liberal church, surprisingly, decided to press charges against the demonstrators for criminal trespassing, setting the stage for the hostile tone many Occupiers are now exhibiting toward the church, its congregants and its staff.

Where are Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly? It took the mayor over three months to order Kelly to clear Zuccotti of the protestors that led to a booming crime rate and a permeating aroma of urine and body odor. For local residents and businesses Occupy was, in every sense, a public safety risk that deserved forcible removal the day after tents were erected on public soil. Now, there is an escalating situation at Trinity that has impaired their ability to serve the local community. Occupy is in no sense a political movement on the sidewalk outside of Trinity, they are a hostile group of homeless squatters with a few incoherent politically-inspired cardboard signs. If the city decided that Occupy was dangerous enough to warrant removal from Zuccotti, they should (quickly) come to the same conclusion about Trinity.

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Bloomberg’s War on Individual Freedom

Today New York City’s Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and sugary drinks in many establishments. It is, as the New York Times pointed out, the first such law enacted in the country. The intent of this initiative pursued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg is to combat the epidemic of obesity in this country. But good intentions have always paved the road to hell or, more important, the path to tyranny. Bloomberg is right to say that New Yorkers ought to be watching their diets. He’s dead wrong in attempting to use the ubiquitous power of the state to impose his ideas about what they should be eating and drinking on them.

The mayor has said he doesn’t want to take away anyone’s right to drink as much soda as they want, but rather his goal is, as he said on the “Today” show, to “force you to understand” that what you are doing is wrong. But at the heart of the latest instance of the mayor’s attempt to become New York’s nanny-in-chief, is an idea put forward in the New York Times by one of his measure’s supporters. As filmmaker Casey Neistat wrote on Saturday, the issue is “that some people just aren’t responsible enough to feed themselves.” That is exactly the frame of reference of Bloomberg on this and all such measures where he and other do-gooders seek to govern the lives of fellow citizens. It is not that they oppose individual freedom per se but that they think the rest of us are too sick or too stupid to be allowed to exercise it freely.

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Today New York City’s Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and sugary drinks in many establishments. It is, as the New York Times pointed out, the first such law enacted in the country. The intent of this initiative pursued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg is to combat the epidemic of obesity in this country. But good intentions have always paved the road to hell or, more important, the path to tyranny. Bloomberg is right to say that New Yorkers ought to be watching their diets. He’s dead wrong in attempting to use the ubiquitous power of the state to impose his ideas about what they should be eating and drinking on them.

The mayor has said he doesn’t want to take away anyone’s right to drink as much soda as they want, but rather his goal is, as he said on the “Today” show, to “force you to understand” that what you are doing is wrong. But at the heart of the latest instance of the mayor’s attempt to become New York’s nanny-in-chief, is an idea put forward in the New York Times by one of his measure’s supporters. As filmmaker Casey Neistat wrote on Saturday, the issue is “that some people just aren’t responsible enough to feed themselves.” That is exactly the frame of reference of Bloomberg on this and all such measures where he and other do-gooders seek to govern the lives of fellow citizens. It is not that they oppose individual freedom per se but that they think the rest of us are too sick or too stupid to be allowed to exercise it freely.

The justification presented for this unprecedented government interference in both commerce and individual behavior is that the public and the government bear much of the cost of the illnesses that derive from obesity. But the logic of this argument breaks down when you realize that such reasoning would allow government to interfere in just about any sphere of private behavior including procreation. That is exactly the point that the Communist regime in Beijing has given in defense of its tyrannical one-child policy and the forced abortions that are performed in order to enforce it.

One needn’t paint the billionaire mayor as a would-be totalitarian to understand that a government that can tell you how much soda to drink or fat to eat because the sugar in your super-sized cup will eventually cost it something is one that can, in theory, tell you to do or not do just anything else you can think of.

America’s grand experiment with do-gooder government early in the 20th century was no less well intentioned than that undertaken by Bloomberg and his food and drink police. Indeed, the prohibition of the sale of alcohol addressed a far more urgent health problem facing the nation then (and now) as well as one that cost it, even in that era of small government, a lot of money. But Americans soon learned that legislating personal choices in such a manner is always a colossal mistake that tells us more about our faults than our virtues.

Personal choices, such as the consumption of sugar, do not fall under any reasonable definition of government responsibility. However serious our obesity problem may be, it cannot be solved by government fiat. Indeed, it isn’t likely that there will be a single less fat person in New York because of Bloomberg’s power play. But there will be a little less individual freedom in the city and elsewhere if his noxious idea spreads. The issue here is freedom, not sugar or obesity. The damage from this infringement on the fundamental values that are the foundation of democracy will hurt us far more than the extra few ounces of soda that the mayor begrudges New York’s citizens.

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NYPD Responds to the Times’s False Attacks

Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

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Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

The NYPD has had enough of the ignorant abuse from the Times, and responded on its Facebook page to the charge: “During the first 10 years of the Bloomberg Administration there were 5,430 murders compared to 11,058 in the 10 years prior, a reduction of 51% or 5,628 lives saved. If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color.”

Indeed, history is just such a guide. As Steven Malanga noted in City Journal in 2007, Rudy Giuliani, whose mayoralty led the policing revolution that eventually made New York one of the safest cities in the country, was also accused of such bias. But contrary to those accusations, under Giuliani the NYPD reduced crime while also reducing shootings by police and claims of excessive force dramatically. And guess who benefited the most:

Moreover, Giuliani’s policing success was a boon to minority neighborhoods. For instance, in the city’s 34th Precinct, covering the largely Hispanic Washington Heights section of Manhattan, murders dropped from 76 in 1993, Dinkins’s last year, to only seven by Giuliani’s last year, a decline of more than 90 percent. Far from being the racist that activists claimed, Giuliani had delivered to the city’s minority neighborhoods a true form of equal protection under the law.

The NYPD goes where the danger is. For that, they should be praised—and usually are. The New York Times editorialists have been railing against policing that has saved thousands of lives in New York’s minority neighborhoods. The paper’s reporting has been so inaccurate and agenda-driven it has led Michael Bloomberg to wonder aloud if what the Times wants is more murder in the city. That may sound harsh, but the great breakthrough of Giuliani’s time in office was his realization that you cannot govern effectively unless you ignore the New York Times. Nowhere is that more important, or with higher stakes, than the effort to keep New Yorkers safe.

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Goldman Sachs Invests in Crime Reduction

Government continues to struggle to find solutions for many of our most pressing social problems: reducing homelessness, lowering incarceration rates, improving the performance of inner-city schools. Despite the constant stream of taxpayer money into these efforts, the results have been slow to come and unimpressive (with some notable exceptions, like the reduction in overall crime under Mayor Giuliani).

The New York Times reports today on a new public-private partnership between Goldman Sachs and a Rikers Island program that aims to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent prisoners. If it succeeds, Goldman profits off its initial investment in the program; if it fails, Goldman loses money:

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release. …

The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.

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Government continues to struggle to find solutions for many of our most pressing social problems: reducing homelessness, lowering incarceration rates, improving the performance of inner-city schools. Despite the constant stream of taxpayer money into these efforts, the results have been slow to come and unimpressive (with some notable exceptions, like the reduction in overall crime under Mayor Giuliani).

The New York Times reports today on a new public-private partnership between Goldman Sachs and a Rikers Island program that aims to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent prisoners. If it succeeds, Goldman profits off its initial investment in the program; if it fails, Goldman loses money:

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release. …

The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.

These investments, known as “social impact bonds” have been used in Britain and Australia, but this would be the first attempt in the U.S. It’s an idea that has upsides for both liberals and conservatives: for liberals, it’s a way to entice private enterprise into supporting public social programs; for conservatives, it’s a way to introduce free market principles into government initiatives. The Goldman Sachs social impact bond in particular sounds like it will bring innovation and accountability to a subject — reducing reincarceration rates — that is lacking in both.

Goldman doesn’t seem to have much to gain or lose financially, other than pocket change (the $2 million at stake is a rounding error compared to the $900 second-quarter profit it reported last month). But the public relations pressure will probably be the biggest incentive.

It’s actually very interesting that Goldman has chosen to invest in reducing recidivism. The free market is a force of miracles that can pull countries out of poverty, tear down walls dividing social classes and allow us to reach new heights of innovation. But it can only reduce social problems to a point; individual choice still exists, and so crime, poverty and homelessness will always remain in some capacity. Is it possible that the recidivism rate can’t be lowered much more than it already has been? There is already a significant cost to choosing a criminal lifestyle. If someone is determined to continue along that path, can any amount of therapy or job training actually reform them? That’s what this social impact bond initiative seems meant to address. And it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, Goldman’s program will have.

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The Nanny State vs. New Moms

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows what’s best for you. He knows how much salt and saturated fat you should cook with and eat, how much soda you should drink, and now, he can even dispense medical advice to nursing mothers! During the weekend, New York City announced that starting September 3rd, the city will enact the most restrictive and pro-breast feeding program in the country.

New mothers who want to feed their newborn babies formula in the hospital will now need to document a medical reason every single time they want their child fed. Newborns are fed about every two to three hours, which means every time a baby in a hospital needs a feeding, a doctor needs to be tracked down to give medical authorization to dispense something that can be bought over the counter anywhere in the world.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows what’s best for you. He knows how much salt and saturated fat you should cook with and eat, how much soda you should drink, and now, he can even dispense medical advice to nursing mothers! During the weekend, New York City announced that starting September 3rd, the city will enact the most restrictive and pro-breast feeding program in the country.

New mothers who want to feed their newborn babies formula in the hospital will now need to document a medical reason every single time they want their child fed. Newborns are fed about every two to three hours, which means every time a baby in a hospital needs a feeding, a doctor needs to be tracked down to give medical authorization to dispense something that can be bought over the counter anywhere in the world.

Everyone knows that “the breast is best” – the benefits of breast milk are well-documented and without a doubt the healthiest option for newborn babies. There are, however, many reasons why a new mother may choose to opt for formula. Mothers, and sometimes their doctors, make the decision that is best for all parties involved. There is no harm in providing a baby with formula, and given any number of possible medical issues, it is sometimes the only option. Doctors and their time, already in short supply, will now be stretched even more thin as they are forced to involve themselves in the private decisions of their patients every two-three hours when a newborn is fed.

Bloomberg has proven in his tenure as mayor that he doesn’t trust New Yorkers to make the right decision for themselves and their families. It seems “my body, my choice” only applies to women’s reproductive decisions while a baby is in utero. From the moment that child emerges from the birth canal, Nanny Bloomberg takes over.

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Bloomberg: Police Should Strike Until I Get What I Want

When it became clear that the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan was a health and safety danger riddled with sexual assaults, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took action… eventually. After a couple of months. New Yorkers already knew that Bloomberg was no Rudy Giuliani, who combined smart conservative policymaking with a dedication to the city’s safety, security, and dignity. But they learned something else as Bloomberg watched businesses close and the violence spread: Bloomberg was willing to sacrifice public safety to make grand political gestures.

And they learned that lesson again yesterday. Bloomberg, who is as pro-gun control as anyone with his own army, went on Piers Morgan’s show and revealed that the Occupy protests seemed to have left a special place in his heart for subjecting the city to periodic bursts of anarchy:

“I don’t understand why police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say we’re going to go on strike, we’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe,’’ he told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

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When it became clear that the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan was a health and safety danger riddled with sexual assaults, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took action… eventually. After a couple of months. New Yorkers already knew that Bloomberg was no Rudy Giuliani, who combined smart conservative policymaking with a dedication to the city’s safety, security, and dignity. But they learned something else as Bloomberg watched businesses close and the violence spread: Bloomberg was willing to sacrifice public safety to make grand political gestures.

And they learned that lesson again yesterday. Bloomberg, who is as pro-gun control as anyone with his own army, went on Piers Morgan’s show and revealed that the Occupy protests seemed to have left a special place in his heart for subjecting the city to periodic bursts of anarchy:

“I don’t understand why police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say we’re going to go on strike, we’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe,’’ he told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

Bloomberg made this astonishingly dangerous remark in response to the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, demanding new tougher gun control legislation. Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that the suspect in this case was building sophisticated bombs in his apartment, and probably would not have been deterred by gun laws. Bloomberg has always had some difficulty with cause and effect–he suggested the Times Square bomber, a self-proclaimed jihadist, was really just angry about President Obama’s health care bill.

And let’s put aside, also, the fact that just as he doesn’t abide by various prohibitions he tries to force on the commoners, Bloomberg’s own safety would never be in doubt. Just yours. And try to put aside the irony of Bloomberg threatening to figuratively put a gun to the public’s head to pass gun control legislation they oppose.

Actually, don’t put any of that aside. Just remember, the next time someone accuses conservatives of holding the country hostage over policy disagreements, Bloomberg has shown us what that would actually look like.

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Would Bloomberg Mock Islam Like That?

Two years ago when the Ground Zero mosque controversy was at its height, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not only among the most ardent defenders of the plan to put an Islamic center in the shadow of the site of the 9/11 attack, he was also among the loudest of those accusing the project’s critics of bigotry. Saying that those who questioned the appropriateness of the plan should be “ashamed of themselves,” the mayor proclaimed that nothing less than the principle of religious liberty was at stake in building the center. But as the cover of the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek demonstrates, squeamishness among our elites — even those who run a magazine that is named for the mayor’s business empire — about even the appearance of prejudice is often limited these days to things that might offend Muslims. When it comes to Mormons, anything still goes.

The cover, which takes a piece of Mormon iconography in which Jesus is depicted as speaking to Mormon prophets, provides a caption bubble in which he instructs them, “And thou shalt build a shopping mall, buy stock in Burger King and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax…” to which one of the prophets responds, “Hallelujah.”

While the business affairs of the Mormon church are fair game for coverage, one has to ask the same question about this cover that can be posed about many of the cheap shots at the Mormons (or Catholics, for that matter): Would Businessweek be any more likely to mock the Prophet Mohammad in this manner than the veterans of the South Park comedy series were when they produced a Broadway hit satirizing the church?

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Two years ago when the Ground Zero mosque controversy was at its height, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not only among the most ardent defenders of the plan to put an Islamic center in the shadow of the site of the 9/11 attack, he was also among the loudest of those accusing the project’s critics of bigotry. Saying that those who questioned the appropriateness of the plan should be “ashamed of themselves,” the mayor proclaimed that nothing less than the principle of religious liberty was at stake in building the center. But as the cover of the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek demonstrates, squeamishness among our elites — even those who run a magazine that is named for the mayor’s business empire — about even the appearance of prejudice is often limited these days to things that might offend Muslims. When it comes to Mormons, anything still goes.

The cover, which takes a piece of Mormon iconography in which Jesus is depicted as speaking to Mormon prophets, provides a caption bubble in which he instructs them, “And thou shalt build a shopping mall, buy stock in Burger King and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax…” to which one of the prophets responds, “Hallelujah.”

While the business affairs of the Mormon church are fair game for coverage, one has to ask the same question about this cover that can be posed about many of the cheap shots at the Mormons (or Catholics, for that matter): Would Businessweek be any more likely to mock the Prophet Mohammad in this manner than the veterans of the South Park comedy series were when they produced a Broadway hit satirizing the church?

The article that the cover illustration teases actually doesn’t do much, if any, harm to the Mormons. Despite the best efforts of the magazine to find disgruntled ex-employees who would dish some juicy dirt about Mormon skullduggery, there’s little here to disgrace the church. If anything, what comes across is the portrait of a prosperous faith community that has applied the values of its church to the business world and produced entities that are largely successful as well as popular.

Much of the scrutiny of the Mormons is clearly the product of Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. But rather than the prospect of the first Mormon president being the subject of stories emphasizing the historic nature of this potential breakthrough for a minority group that comprises slightly more than one percent of the population and which suffered terrible discrimination in its early years, the tenor of most of the coverage comes from a very different frame of reference. Much like the Obama campaign’s desire to portray the Republican candidate as “weird,” the notion that there is something unwholesome or unusual about a faith group that runs thriving businesses is rooted in a view of the otherwise all-American Mormons as aliens in our midst.

Unlike Muslims who have reacted to even the mildest of satire about their faith with terror and violence, the Mormons are too smart and too sane to even take much notice of insults directed at their faith. But while the Mormon business empire should not be exempt from scrutiny, the attitude that treats anti-Mormon prejudice as a species of prejudice that is somehow acceptable in mainstream and even liberal publications is an indication of the selective definition of religious bias practiced by some in our chattering classes. Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t make decisions about the magazine that bears his name. Yet when you put the cover in the context of the mayor’s speech about the mosque, the double standard about religious prejudice that is the norm these days is all too obvious.

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