The First Rule Of Sirota’s Holier Than Thou Club (UPDATED)

UPDATE: As the subject of this post has dropped by for a visit, I am going to clarify: I am not defending, and did not defend, the deliberate targeting of minority-dominated neighbourhoods for frisking, drug swoops etc. Nowhere did I even mention those in this post. I was responding to Sirota’s criticisms of the increase in the number of arrests and the money and time Bloomberg is choosing to spend on it. I think that’s pretty obvious when you read the actual paragraph in question. But then, I’m not chronically intellectually dishonest.

….is the rules must be constantly changed to deny all but David Sirota membership.

A theme you will often see with Salon’s twin beacons of supreme self-righteousness, David Sirota and Glenn Greenwald, is that they are ‘courageous’ for holding the opinions they do, for Evil Obama Cultists or Imaginary Evil Authority Figures are, as we speak, threatening to throw them in the gulag for daring to speak out against what most people see as sanity and common sense, but they see as the creeping onslaught of fascism.

Now Sirota goes even further in this narcissistic hogwash in his latest screed about a NYT’s reporter’s tweet on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s legacy. This tweet, in fact (which I will agree is too deferential in tone for my liking too, but otherwise has valid points):

So what? Bloomberg shouldn’t be given any kudos at all for championing gay rights. He’s mayor of fucking New York City! The only place safer to support gay rights is a gay bar…in San Francisco! So yeah, big deal Bloomie. Or so says David Sirota, for whom being right (ie being of the same mind as Sirota) is now no longer enough to get you that Scooby Snack. No, now you have to be right while locked inside an asylum filled with lunatics, screeching howler monkeys and rabid dogs infested with fleas carrying the Black Death.

As mayor of the Big Apple, Bloomberg is a national political figure — and his positions supporting dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, backing gay marriage and defending the right of an Islamic center to be built in Lower Manhattan are certainly of national interest, laudable and pro-freedom. However, two of those three positions (Ai Weiwei and gay marriage) are hardly politically courageous in a socially progressive city like New York. More important, citing these three isolated examples to declare Bloomberg “The Freedom Mayor” who represents a “full-throated defense of liberty” is a propagandistic whitewashing of his larger anti-freedom record — and such hagiographic sloganeering is particularly disturbing coming from an allegedly objective meme-shaper like Barbaro.

Being a pragmatist, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Given that New York State’s last attempt to legalise gay marriage failed in the  Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo says the votes still aren’t there, the support of an independent, powerful political figure and former Republican could prove extremely useful. But there I go again, bringing common sense into the argument. And standing up for the 1st Amendment, the cornerstone of freedom in the Constitution,during the ridiculous fuss over the Park51 project,  is what I’d call a ‘full throated defence’ of liberty.

While there are many valid criticisms to be levelled at Bloomberg, the other criticisms Sirota offers are, to put it mildly, laughable. His chief concerns are the NYPD arresting people for possession of pot and ‘Big Brother’ surveillance cameras. Whether you think pot should be criminalised or not, the fact remains it is currently against the law and will be until the law is changed. What exactly are the police supposed to do – not enforce a law because some people don’t agree with it? You know, believing pot leads to people taking harder drugs is a perfectly legitimate position to have, and Bloomberg has every right to get tough on it if that is his position.

As for this ‘ZOMG Big Brother is watching us!!11eleventy!!” reaction to surveillance cameras, what these hysterical morons seem to forget is that the the cameras are recording to tape so they can be closely examined later in the event of a crime occurring, and people in the observation rooms are on the lookout for antisocial and criminal behaviour. They are not interested in watching you, Mr Par. A. Noid, adjust your tin foil hat every 5 seconds.

In Which I Tackle Clegg Derangement Syndrome

I’m very much in the minority of liberals in that I believe Nick Clegg is not even guilty of treason, much less deserving of being hung, drawn and quartered (and there are many people on the left who would volunteer for the job of executioner). Here is a chronological explanation of why Clegg has not actively betrayed Lib Dem supporters, but simply muddled along as best he could during the coalition and actually showing responsible leadership in the aftermath of the election in May 2010.

The results of the election meant Clegg had only one choice.  While no party ended up with a clear majority, the message sent was still clear: the British public did not want Labour in power any longer. Therefore, as the leader of the party holding the balance of power, Clegg was honour and duty bound to come to terms with the Tories, the party who received the largest share of seats in the House of Commons. Had he come to terms with Labour, he would have been rightly accused of propping up a moribund government against the clear wishes of the people (as understood under the FPTP system). He did the right thing.

Now, on to the coalition agreement. In their haste to make Clegg a hate figure, many people forget that the entire Lib Dem party voted on whether to approve the terms of the agreement and form a coalition with the Tories. They have been accused of settling for a pathetic number of concessions, but let us not forget that the Lib Dems actually lost seats in the election, and were fortunate to be in the position of having any clout at all. Striking a deal for the non-taxable allowance to be raised to £7500 was pretty good for half a loaf etting the Tories to agree to a referendum for AV was not mere breadcrumbs from their table; it was an impressive concession considering just how deeply opposed the Tories are to PR. As for the tuition fees fiasco – well, in that case Clegg and the Lib Dems’s sin was promising something they knew they could never deliver in making the wholly unrealistic ‘free tuition fees’ pledge part of their manifesto, and later pledging to fight any increases. The criticism they received on this issue was well deserved – if they had to do a U-turn on this, they should have at least demanded £6000 be the absolute cap and not allowed the £9000 loophole, which as anyone could and did predict, became the rule instead of the exception.

Plenty of Lib Dems have made screw ups and done unethical things (Chris Huhne being the latest), yet they have never received the opprobrium Clegg receives. Take David Laws, who, inexplicably, Lib Dem supporters fought a desperate rearguard action for despite the fact he was guilty of outrageous abuse of expenses.  His plea that he was desperate to keep his sexuality a secret was not only a poor excuse for his actions, but I felt it was also insulting to his partner. The whole distasteful affair seemed to me to suggest that Laws put his political career at the expense of his personal relationships, sadly typical behaviour for a politician. And then we have Vince Cable, who might very well have put the kibosh on the awful planned takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch if he had only kept his mouth shut. Whatever you think of the Telegraph’s sting – and I found it dishonest and a danger to constituents’ relationship with their MPs, and the PCC rapped it over the knuckles - it does not alter the fact that what Cable said was unforgivably stupid, and has now made the BSkyB takeover a near certainty.  So where were the torches and pitchforks? Where were the baying mobs screaming abuse at Cable for letting them down?

Blaming Clegg for the defeat of AV, while easy and no doubt satisfying, as it removes the need for introspection, is wrong.  The real reasons for AV’s defeat are gone over here, by myself and Paperback Rioter. It was hard not to pity the man, as he tried to fight for what he believed in only to be told “Go the fuck away! You’re not wanted here!” by almost the whole of liberaldom. Clegg can’t win – he gets pilloried for allegedly not fighting hard enough for Lib Dem policies by people who fail to grasp the realities and limitations of his position, and he gets pilloried for fighting for the Lib Dem’s Holy Grail – electoral reform.

Prior to the election, a popular Twitter hashtag was #nickcleggsfault. It was created in irony, after the right-wing media led by the Telegraph launched a blatant campaign to smear him when his popularity exploded after the 1st US-style debate. It seems now, that everything still is Nick Clegg’s fault, it’s just the people leading the attack have changed.