Thursday, June 14, 2007

President Giuliani?

Interesting piece from Jeffrey Feldman (http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/53938/) about Rudy Giuliani, and what it was like in New York while he was mayor. We've all seen Giuliani be at the forefront of the Republican candidates in trying to scare the American people into voting for him. This piece, while maybe a bit hyperbolic, does go into some detail as to what Giuliani would do with that rule by fear. One interesting part in the piece is a link to a speech Giuliani gave in 1994. Here's an excerpt:

"What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

While there is some truth to what he's saying (basically making the argument that anarchy is not freedom), the disturbing part is that there is no counterbalancing discussion about how the power of that "lawful authority" has to be significantly limited in order to prevent tyranny. And by focusing on the "you have to submit to authority to be free" without also focusing on the "government must be limited in order to protect the liberties of the people" you have a recipe for oppression and tyranny.

------

For those lucky enough to have never lived under the Stasi-style rule of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, it may come as a shock to learn that "Rudy's" formula for the good life in America is: 200 strip-searches per day (give or take few).

This is no theory, mind you. It is a formula derived from Giuliani's record as mayor. Specifically, the data about Giuliani's use of strip-searches as police policy came to light when a large class action law suit was filed against the city in 1997, resulting in the largest civil rights settlement against New York City ever, and one of the largest against any municipality anywhere.

At the directive of Mayor Giuliani's office, over a ten month period from 1996 to 1997, the New York City police conducted over 70,000 strip-searches of ordinary citizens for minor offenses including: trying to board the subway without paying a fare and jaywalking.

If 70,000 strip-searches were conducted by Giuliani's policy squads over 10 months, that meant roughly 233 per day, about 10 per hour or one every 6 minutes.

Ah, yes, America. That cool breeze you feel on your naked legs as you stand spread eagle in a police precinct--that's the refreshing sensation of Giuliani-style freedom. Invigorating, eh?

Seem excessive? Worried that a hypothetical "President Giuliani" would turn the whole country into a 21st-Century version of East Berlin? Well, that just means you are one of those "liberals" who does not yet understand Rudy Giuliani's core operating principle--that "freedom" can only come about if we are willing to willfully "cede" all our rights to the absolute authority of the police.

For some New Yorkers, ceding freedom to thug-style police brutality authorized by Mayor Giuliani was a great way to get rid of muggers and subway station panhandlers, but for most it just increased the likelihood of being strip-searched or--even worse--gunned down by Rudy's trigger-happy cops.

Scaring Our Pants Off

While he likes to brag about stopping crime in New York, what really happened under Rudy's reign was the rise of Stasi-style police brutality. The theory was that crime is not just stopped by enforcing the law, but by preemptive attacks on any citizen suspected of breaking the law.

The broader logic in Giuliani's 200-strip-searches-per-day approach was that crime happens when citizens are not afraid of the state. Fighting crime, therefore, is not just about arresting people for criminal acts, but about spreading fear of the police. Once the fear spreads, crime is supposed to stop.

In practice, however, it did not work that way.

What resulted from the 200-strip-searches-per-day policy of Mayor Giuliani was a massive spike in human rights violations that offset the crime rate decreases.

One can only imagine what Giuliani-ism would bring on a national scale.

Rather than turn back the bestial human rights violations of the Bush administration, a Giuliani administration would probably increase it.

A Strip-Search Approach to Immigration Policy?

In all likelihood, Giuliani as president would result in the application of his strip-search-approach to America's current immigration question.

In theory, Giuliani has called for "tamper proof" ID cards to be distributed to every immigrant in America. But in practice, it is far more likely that America would see the 200-strip-searches-per-day formula applied to immigration.

If this were to come about, suddenly America would become a country were people were suspected immigrants were routinely stopped and searched--first on the suspicion that they did not have ID cards, but subsequently on suspicion of just about anything.

Why? Because in Giuliani's worldview, social order is not the product of people following the rules--of just having the right ID card--but of fearing the policy. And so Giuliani would likely see an escalation in fear of policy by immigrants as the only path to solving the current immigration issue.

A Strip-Search Approach to Foreign Policy?

That fear-brings-order approach on the domestic front would also, likely, bring about a fear-brings-order approach in a Giuliani administration's foreign policy.

To date, Giuliani has already been arguing that America is not yet winning the war on terror because we are not afraid enough of Islamic Jihadism. His logic? Freedom from terrorism can only come about through even more ceding of rights by American citizens to the state.

You thought Bush was bad on this front? Giuliani would likely be even worse.

A Strip-Search Approach to Education?

In terms of education policy, Giuliani likes to talk about vouchers and individual choice, but if he became president, it seems likely that he would bring his strip-search approach to our children's schools, too.

Education, he would likely tell America, cannot happen effectively unless our children are taught to cede their freedom to authority. That would mean more metal detectors, more police in schools, more locker searchers and--you guessed it--more strip searches in school. And all this would most likely be put forth under the guise of improving education and stopping violence.

The United States of Strip-Searches

Nobody can know for sure what the future will bring. But if the past is any indicator (and it always is), a Giuliani presidency would likely make strip-search-style policies a regular part of our American culture. That is to say: more regular than they have become in the Bush presidency.

Of course, the idea that freedom from social ills comes by ceding one's rights to authority--that is not the basis of democracy, but rhetorical marker of tyrannical monarchy and dictatorship.

In our constitutional democracy all citizens enter into a mutual compact together, thereby imbuing our government with a degree of authority. And that authority at no time has the power to demand that citizens cede their rights. In fact, if the government that we empower every tries to defraud us of our rights,then we as citizens have an obligation to depose that government.

In its own limited way, that is exactly what the citizens of New York City did with their class action suit against Giuliani's government in 1997.

Hopefully, knowing about Giuliani's strip-searching past will stop him before he has a chance to bring strip-searches to America's future.

No comments: