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On the Cordoba House and the First Amendment

August 11th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve been meaning to write a bit more and clarify my thoughts and feelings on the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for a community center and mosque in lower Manhattan. Last week, I strung together a bit of a rambling post discussing how disappointed I am in the sweeping tide of anti-American behavior taken up in the name of “American values” throughout this nation.

The proposed Cordoba House is an uncomfortable issue for most and brings up conflicting feelings and desires to both defend American freedoms and empathize with the families of September 11, 2001 victims.

Part of my desire to discuss the topic more was the realization that I hadn’t articulated well exactly what it was that I found offensive and anti-American. So let me be clear, opposing the Cordoba House is not anti-American. It is merely the attempts to use the government or government means that is anti-American and, quite simply, unconstitutional.

While technically, the movement to have the former Burlington Coat Factory building landmarked was not specifically tied to the building of a mosque (and it would not have completely blocked the construction, but simply made the plans more difficult as the exterior of the building would have had to be preserved) and was, therefore, not relating to the establishment, promotion or obstruction of religious freedoms. Despite this, few would argue that the facts really hid the between-the-lines anti-Islam motivations thereunder. This would be no different than the post-Edwards v Aguillard move of creationists to remove overt religious references to religion or god in the newly revamped intelligence design movement. Everyone knows the motivation has no basis in science, but in religious ideology.

In the case of the Cordoba House, pushing to landmark and make more difficult the conversion of the building at the proposed site was a measure to use the government to obstruct the construction of a privately funded, otherwise legal religious building and institution. In other words, this move represented an effort to violate the Establishment Clause.

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Freedom in America: Why don’t some folks get it?

August 6th, 2010 8 comments

Mike Bloomberg marked the Cordoba House victory from Governor's Island (nee Nutten Island), where the Dutch first settled New Amsterdam.

This past week has seen two important victories for liberty in America.  Yet somehow, the news accounts are all over the place.  If you look at a Red station/website/paper (e.g., anything owned by Rupert Murdoch), the sky is falling.  If you’re on Twitter or Tumblr, you’d think everyone had decided to sing Kumbaya and that all the world’s ills are over.  Obviously, the reality is somewhere in between.  And, at least in my eyes, these victories for liberty were but speed bumps that have not halted a harsh and brutal wave of oppression that ironically brandishes the name of freedom.

The victories of which I speak were both very important.  The first came on Tuesday when the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously against a measure to grant landmark status to the building that once housed The Burlington Coat Factory and now is planned to be torn down and replaced with a 13-story community center called the Cordoba House.  The second was Wednesday, when a California jurist enjoined enforcement of a ballot initiative that effectively banned same-sex marriage in the state.  While these two levees pushed back the waters of hatred and bigotry (of late, quite commonly in the name of fundamentalist Christianity), this country is leaking like a sieve elsewhere and that the victories were necessary at all is reflective thereof.

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Election Day in NYC

November 3rd, 2009 Comments off

It’s the one year anniversary of the election of Barack Obama, a great day for most New Yorkers. We’re celebrating it by reelecting a rich white Republican over an African American Democrat… and we’re going to feel good about doing it.

President Obama himself endorsed Thompson with such fervor and intensity that he forgot to use him name and instead endorsed the “Democratic candidate for Mayor.” The subtext there is that even Democrats are only doing just enough to show party solidarity while winking at Mayor Mike and noting that they too think he’s doing a stand up job.

At somewhere between 5′ and 5’3″, it can sometimes be difficult to discern when Bloomberg is standing, but there’s little doubt that he’s the finest Mayor since Laguardia. He’s sheparded the City through a joint security and economic catastrophe upon taking office and an economic meltdown of epic proportions in the past 18 months. He’s strengthened schools and improved on the run of great crime numbers despite two economic collapses. Most importantly, he’s taken a stand against both obesity and smoking and has followed in Giuliani’s footsteps as a national leader among US Mayors.

All of this is why Bill Thompson’s only argument against electing Mayor Mike is that he’s only able to run because he subverted “the will of the people” in respect of term limits. He doesn’t even attack Bloomberg for being a dictator because he knows that Mike is a benevolent dictator and one who the City perhaps even needs at this point. There is no doubt that Bloomberg would be the better Mayor, so Thompson is just hoping that New Yorkers will cut off their nose to spite their face.

Ultimately, I will battle the knowledge that Mike will probably win by 20 points over Ruth Messinger… err, I mean Bill Thompson. I’ll get out to my polling station and pull my lever around 8:30 tonight and proudly vote for our Lilliputian Supreme Commander. Not only because he’s the better candidate, but because he’s the best candidate for Mayor that I’m likely ever going to be able to vote for.