Monday, August 06, 2012

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee knows a useful tragedy when he sees one

I do not accept the first and most extreme assertion of Truthers — the proposition that mass-casualty tragedies are secretly engineered by (unusually competent, unusually close-mouthed) government agencies.

I do, however, accept the second and eminently correct assertion of Truthers — that politicians and law enforcement make cynical and unscrupulous use of tragedies for their own ends.

This week San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is here to prove it.

San Francisco is a city that’s famous — or notorious — for being liberal, depending on your point of view. But in modern America “liberal” does not reliably mean “an advocate of limited police power” or “a supporter of Fourth Amendment rights.” Nominal “liberals” in government are as eager to milk fear and law-and-order sentiment as the most gravel-knuckled conservative. Ed Lee is no different.

Mayor Ed Lee remains resolute in implementing some form of a stop-and-frisk program – even if it’s not called that – in the wake of Friday’s horrific movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., and a trip to Philadelphia, which has its own controversial stop-and-frisk program.

“I am as, if not more, committed, and especially in light of the massacre that occurred in Aurora, but also the review of what’s happening in New York and Philadelphia and Chicago and the crime that’s committed,” Lee said Monday on the sidelines of an announcement about federal transportation funding.

Bringing up Aurora to justify a stop-and-frisk policy is jaw-droppingly dishonest — the sort of argument that shows not only shamelessness but a willingness to insult the intelligence of one’s audience. If you’re a guy in red clown hair and body armor carrying a rifle and a shotgun into a movie theater, well-established law is more than sufficient to justify the police to conduct an investigative stop of you. No special stop-and-frisk policy is required. Rather, a stop-and-frisk policy is a device calculated to give legal and political cover to arbitrary harassment of the sort of people they like to harass and in an attempted end run around Fourth Amendment principles like probable cause and reasonable suspicion.

That this is common does not make it less outrageous. Yet after 9/11, perhaps our capacity for outrage about such rhetoric is exhausted. We live in a country, after all, where politicians tell us they need to use post-9/11 anti-terrorism powers against people who pirate Shrek. So what’s a little callous misappropriation of a mass shooting, in the scheme of things?

Original report here

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