Michael Bloomberg, Frequently Exhausted Champion of Civil Liberties

In a post at The Atlantic that I initially took to be a joke because it is headlined "Michael Bloomberg, Tireless Champion of Civil Liberties," Wendy Kaminer praises the New York mayor's support for the First Amendment, which she suggests outweighs the paternalistic meddling exemplified by his widely derided restrictions on soda servings. Kaminer is right that Bloomberg has taken admirable stances on freedom of speech:

When the MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] was under court order to accept a series of provocative anti-Muslim ads in subway stations, Bloomberg shrugged: "I assume [they'll] do what the courts ordered them to do." [He also noted that "as Americans, we tolerate things that we find despicable."]

When other big-city, pro-gay-rights mayors threatened to bar Chick-fil-A from their domains, Bloomberg schooled them on free speech: "You really don't want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That's just not government's job." [Katherine Mangu-Ward noted his commendable remarks here.]

When 10 members of the New York City Council threatened to withdraw funding from Brooklyn College because it dared to sponsor a discussion of boycotts and sanctions against Israel, Bloomberg snorted, "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."

Bloomberg took a principled stand in each of these cases, defending people's right to say things with which he personally disagreed. Regarding the MTA ads (which actually condemned "jihad," as opposed to Muslims generally), his attitude was a notable improvement on the position taken by his immediate predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, who famously asked the MTA to remove a New York magazine ad that (gently) mocked him from its buses. The result was a 1997 federal appeals court decision rejecting such content-based restrictions, which was cited by the federal judge who overturned the MTA's refusal to run the anti-jihad ads. Those ads, by the way, were sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group that conspicuously opposed construction of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. That was another First Amendment controversy in which Bloomberg distinguished himself, offering a stirring defense of religious freedom.

In light of these examples, "Michael Bloomberg, Defender of the First Amendment" would have been an apt title for Kaminer's post. But even if you don't count the right to control what goes into your body as a civil liberty, "Michael Bloomberg, Tireless Champion of Civil Liberties" goes way too far. As Kaminer concedes, Bloomberg has not been a very good friend to the rest of the Bill of Rights. A founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a funder of pro-gun-control candidates, he has never met a firearm restriction he did not like, which certainly casts doubt on his commitment to defending the Second Amendment. Nor is he a fan of the Fifth Amendment's protections for property rights, to judge by his vigorous defense of broad eminent domain powers. But the biggest problem with any attempt to portray Bloomberg as a champion of civil liberties is his obvious lack of enthusiasm for the Fourth Amendment.

Bloomberg, despite his own youthful enjoyment of cannabis, has presided over a huge surge in arrests for "public display" of marijuana, many of them illegal because the pot came into open view only as a result of police intervention. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo took on the issue last year, Bloomberg suddenly voiced support for decriminalizing public display, which he falsely claimed would be consistent with current police practices. And as Kaminer notes, civil libertarians "deplore his defense of repressive stop-and-frisk policies." That defense has been notable not only because Bloomberg always comes down on the side of more police power but because the billionaire Harvard MBA dismisses anyone who disagrees with him as a pointy-headed pontificator insulated from the reality of the streets. Bloomberg implicitly concedes that New York cops routinely stop and frisk people without the "reasonable suspicion" that the Supreme Court has said is required by the Fourth Amendment. He just doesn't think such legal niceties matter when you're fighting crime. "Tireless Champion of Civil Liberties"? Not so much.

So is Kaminer kidding after all? Her hyperbole may have been a deliberate attempt to lure outraged Bloomberg critics, in which case I totally fell for it.

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  • fish||

    So Mikes a paternalistic douchebag but it's okay that you express that sentiment!

  • Rich||

    Bloomberg, despite his own youthful enjoyment of cannabis

    Ah, so that's how he became slower-thinking adult.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So is Kaminer kidding after all? Her hyperbole may have been a deliberate attempt to lure outraged Bloomberg critics, in which case I totally fell for it.

    I imagine that as a journalist, she believes that the First Amendment is the only one we really need. I also imagine that, as a resident of NYC, she believes that true freedom is only possible when the government limits you to the narrowest possible range of possible actions before you actually make a decision.

  • ||

    Since when do journalists believe in the 1st Amendment? Other than it applying to them, of course.

  • ||

    Well, she's less a journalist than a former board member of the ACLU, but yeah.

  • ||

    Do you even have a point?

  • brlfq||

    Don't you two see that you're in love with each other?
    Why can't you admit that?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    We went through this before with our old friend Mary. No real non-fantasy woman is good enough for Epi.

  • ||

    That the ACLU doesn't care about a lot of civil liberties. So, not really.

  • Paul.||

    I imagine that as a journalist, she believes that the First Amendment is the only one we really need.

    You must be paying attention to different MSM journalists than I am. Most of the ones I keep reading lament the first amendment.

  • Art Vandelay||

    If only the first amendment applied to just government-licensed members of "The Media"....

  • sloopyinca||

    Jacob, you are too good a writer and serious a person to take anything The Atlantic says seriously. Please, do yourself a favor the next time you're tempted to read anything from their site: go get drunk.

  • brlfq||

    I'm thinking that the professional writers at Reason have a good laugh at the career advice offered by the peanut gallery here, but I may be mistaken.

  • 34lbs||

    Or high.. weed works better.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Statist inconsistent dickheads can occasionally cover some libertarian hits. I'm still not going to party with their lame asses.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    He also noted that "as Americans, we tolerate things that we find despicable."

    I think he meant, "We tolerate things you find despicable. If I find it despicable, we put a stop to it under force of law."

  • ||

    hey mike.

    i'm intimately familiar with the "realities of the streets" and you are full of shit. "He just doesn't think such legal niceties matter when you're fighting crime"

    "billionaire Harvard MBA dismisses anyone who disagrees with him as a pointy-headed pontificator insulated from the reality of the streets". heck, just yesterday my partners and i disarmed a violent crazed hostage taker with a knife, no muss no fuss.

    there's no reason, or justification for throwing the constitution away. stop and frisk is fine - WITH REASONABLE SUSPICION as rights-respecting street cops have done for decades, whereas NYPD's bogus unconstitutional stop and frisk is unforgivable.

    the last thing i need is some bureaucrat lecturing me about the 'realities of the street" and using it as a justification for ignoring constitutional protections.

    right now, as i type, my partners are taking a "crazed out of control" (according to RP) man with a gun into custody, again no muss no fuss and again consistent with the constitution.

    the constitution and law enforcement go together just fine. sure, it means plenty of guilty evade/escape detection. that's the tradeoff we accept in a FREE SOCIETY

    props to you for your respect of the 1st amendment, but the constitution isn't a pick and choose buffet. executive branch members, whether a governor, mayor, or street cop, need to respect the whole ball of wax. rule of law - it makes us better

  • Hugh Akston||

    Congratulations dunphy, that was the most irrelevant, incoherent load of horseshit I have read all day.

  • ||

    Is that the first thing you read all day? I know people often have a problem with Dunphy, but I'd hardly say that calling out Bloomberg as full of shit and disrespectful of Constitutional protections is irrelevant or incoherent.

  • ||

    he's most likely just kneejerking after considering the source. it doesn't matter what i post. i posted it, therefore it's bullshit.

    unlike the ivory tower critics here, i (by virtue of employment) deal with constitutional issues firsthand on a daily basis, including the ultimate seizure decision - shoot or don't shoot. bloomberg, like many others here, is removed from the realities of the street, of crime, and of the constitutional issues at the most basic level, and it's the height of hubris for him to say what he said.

    cheers

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    How do you know Bloomberg doesn't dress up in an orca suit and fight crime until dawn in the Bronx ghetto every night?

  • ||

    NO ONE ESCAPES THE WRATH OF... THE KILLER WHALE!

  • ||

    there are a million stories in the naked city.

  • ||

    Fortunately, most of them are kind enough to wear clothes. Bloomberg just has to do all his vigilante work clad only in a speedo.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    He is the worst nightmare of the Yonkers sodium smugglers.

  • brlfq||

    there are a million stories in the naked city

    Yes, yes, but we're interested in the ones that involve executed puppies and, in a pinch, grandmothers. Try to focus, you fascist pig.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    there are a million stories in the naked city.

    The actual quote was "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them".

    It was the tagline of of cop show in the 50's-60's featuring cops who didn't think that it was okay to break little laws because they were cops.

    So you'd know nothing about it.

    ... Hobbit

  • Jordan||

    I don't think he even read it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    No I read it. Four times in fact. I just had no idea it was directed at Bloomberg.

    I guess I've learned a valuable lesson about trying read dunphy's indecipherable bullshit in the first place.

  • ||

    I didn't realize it was directed at Bloomberg at first either, I thought it was some weird poster that got banned already. Then I realized who "mike" referred to.

  • ||

    smooches to you, too. first, remove the blinders from your eye, and read with an open mind and you should be fine.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    This is straight out of the glib playbook:

    1. Make a ridiculous statement in an attempt to insult a disfavored forum member
    2. Get called on it
    3. Try to cover it up by insulting the disfavored member again.

    Sorry, Hugh, if you read that four times (in particular the last paragraph) and didn't realize it was directed at some politician (which in the context had to be Bloomberg) , you're retarded. Good news is you can probably get federal assistance money.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I copped to not understanding it Tulpa. Then I stood by my assertion that it was incoherent. I'm used to reading properly structured and punctuated writing. If a writer turned in something that looked like a dunphy post I'd throw it back at him and tell him to quit wasting my time.

    Again, My mistake for trying to read dunphy in the first place.

  • ||

    And you responded to Tulpy-Poo. You are making a lot of mistakes today.

  • brlfq||

    Tulpa (LAOL-PA)| 2.13.13 @ 6:37PM
    The glib playbook:

    1. Make a ridiculous statement in an attempt to insult a disfavored forum member
    2. Get called on it
    3. Try to cover it up by insulting the disfavored member again.

    Um, how have you managed to avoid the banhammer all this time? Tenure? Is it tenure?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Reason believes in letting a thousand flowers bloom.

    Which is annoying when some other posters slander me and stuff, but it's the tradeoff we make in a free society.

  • SugarFree||

    other posters slander me

    "Boo-fucking-hoo. They just won't recognize my genius..."

    Goddamn but you are pathetic.

    And it's not slander. It's written, so it's libel, fuckface.

  • Calidissident||

    What exactly is a glib?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    We'll tell you when you're older

  • JW||

    Tulpa: The Comic Sans of H&R.

  • 34lbs||

    Shut Hugh Jass, Dunphy made a good point and u is just jelly that it came from a cop and not some gun wielding gay civil liberties lawyer with GJ2012 bumper stickers on his Hummer (the ultimate libertarian).

  • ||

    Psh, the ultimate libertarian would probably have pocket nukes and a diamond-studded DeLorean.

  • ||

    The MTA shouldn't exist, so questions about what ads it can show are moot. Businesses shouldn't require a permits, so denying them on any grounds is wrong. And Brooklyn College shouldn't receive any public funding, so it doesn't matter if funds are withheld. None of them are examples of the promotion of freedom.

    If Bloomberg had any understanding of freedom he'd advocate privatizing the MTA, ending permitting, and eliminating public funding. It's rich that he calls out North Korea, when comparing Bloomberg to Kim Jong-un is a distinction without a difference.

  • Raven Nation||

    "comparing Bloomberg to Kim Jong-un is a distinction without a difference."

    Seriously? I mean Bloomberg is clearly a douche, contemptible, & doesn't understand most of the Bill of Rights. But there is a real difference b/w him and North Korea.

  • ||

    But there is a real difference b/w him and North Korea.

    I know, right? Bloomberg's pretty bloated with self-importance, but he's nowhere NEAR the size of North Korea.

  • 34lbs||

    Try getting even a ml of coke in NK. Huge difference bro.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Maybe they mean "tireless" in the sense of having no tires. Like a tireless car, which would be just as useless for going anywhere as Bloomberg is for defending civil liberties.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Bloomberg snorted, "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."

    Good one. Two points for Bloomberg.

    Unfortunately, you can go to any US state university for this. No free speech on campuses except on postage stamp "free speech zones".

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Bullshit.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I don't think Bloomberg is being inconsistent here (though he's certainly undeserving of the title given him by that article). He's a perfectly consistent nanny-stater. He's OK with allowing speech because it doesn't produce any ill effects. Whereas guns and trans fats and cigarettes CAN be used to produce harmful effects. Where he would disagree with us is that he doesn't distinguish between self-harm and harm of others, AND he fails to see that the unharmful uses of guns far outweigh the harmful ones.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    A little while ago, one of Bloomberg's Mayors Against Legal Guns minions was on Chrissie Matthews' show, bemoaning the lack of truly severe penalties for straw purchases, "trafficking" and other firearms transfers which do not involve the active participation of government agents. I guess prosecutors only aggressively pursue crimes if they can lock the perp in a cage for life.

    No sensible person objects to universal background checks; it only takes a couple of minutes, and millions of innocent lives will be saved.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    The only lives that have ever been saved by a background check I've undergone have been those of the squirrels I could have been massacring while waiting for the Pennsylvania point of contact to pick up the phone. Having been born in Illinois they always stall trying to see if I really reside in PA or am just trying to evade the common sense gun control laws of my birth state.

  • ||

    or am just trying to evade the common sense gun control laws of my birth state

    Which you obviously are, by living in PA. Duh.

  • Paul.||

    You are trying to avoid the common-sense gun control laws of your birth state. You moved to PA.

  • Paul.||

    Nicole, when one endeavors to make a snappy comment, it would be appreciated if you'd wait five minutes before writing your own.

    I demand a five minute comment waiting period... for other people!

  • ||

    It's only fair for me to wait until after the men have had their turn.

  • Paul.||

    Big piece of chicken...

  • Robert||

    Fried?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Right! But I haven't lived in IL since Jim Edgar was governor, so I thought they'd get with the program by now.

  • Raven Nation||

    Well, if you gave them the full length birth certificate...

  • Generic Stranger||

    I didn't know that 5-10 years in Federal PMITA Prison counted as "lenient".

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Even the BATFE admits that "straw purchases" only constitute about 8.5% of guns used to commit crimes.

    A solution in desperate search of a problem.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I didn't know that 5-10 years in Federal PMITA Prison counted as "lenient".

    You can't expect somebody like Carmen Ortiz to bestir herself to go after such a pathetic slap on the wrist. Of course, I suspect what they really want is forfeiture of all assets.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    trying to evade the common sense gun control laws of my birth state.

    And looting the state treasury by not paying any taxes.

  • brlfq||

    For a "late" guy you have an irritating habit of rising from the dead. Why not just die permanently already? The blog-o-sphere thanks you in advance.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    You sure woke up on the wrong side of the asshole today.

  • Generic Stranger||

    I'm starting to think that whoever thought brlfq is Mary was right. She just managed to sound saner than normal for the first day or so. Perhaps the electroshock therapy is wearing off.

  • RenkBooo||

    Now see I never thought about it like that dude.

    www.Anon-Tools.da.bz

  • Robert||

    It's Wendy Kaminer, of course it was sarcastic.

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