Cynthia Nixon: Ignorance and the City

Hailing from Upstate New York, and having some want to return to my childhood home, I follow New York politics to some degree. Lately, King Cuomo has been taking liberty after liberty and freedom after freedom away from the citizens of New York; it has even been rated as the least free state in 2012 and 2016 by the Cato Institute. While, much of the state votes red, New York is almost always blue thanks to New York City and a few other counties: typically, republican gubernatorial or presidential candidates stand little chance. This year, the Libertarian party has put forth an excellent candidate in Larry Sharpe (that many democrats and republicans could get behind if they looked at his policies) but of course, the media attention sticks with the left, documenting King Cuomo’s further power grabs, Anthony Weiner-esque crazy rants and of course his crony capitalist corruption – of course, all with a positive spin. This year, one of Cuomo’s leftist primary opponents has been garnering more media coverage than that of the Republicans or Larry Sharpe. It may in part be due to her already risen star, or maybe it’s just New York politics, but the former Sex in the City star Cynthia Nixon has already been on the Late show with Colbert, and picked up tons of media coverage. She was also endorsed by the Working Families Party, a progressive-left leaning party that are also proponents of raising the minimum wage and making higher education a universal right. (Which when inspected closer, actually cause more problems for the individuals they are trying to help.)

To be fair, I do not have the time to dig into all of Nixon’s stances on issues, but one in particular crossed my news feed and caught my eye. Over the last decade or so, cannabis has become more of an accepted plant, with some states going so far as to decriminalize it’s recreational use. Nixon feels the same way and said so in an article on the Huffington Post. It would seem that this is great news. Another gubernatorial candidate – after Larry Sharpe – for New York State wants to legalize cannabis: “a win for choice and personal liberties,” I thought. And then I read the byline: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” and this is where my excitement died. Unfortunately, Nixon’s stance is akin to many of those on the left, they see that minorities make up a larger number of drug crimes than that of the white majority, but then they suggest the resolution to the problem is simply to make that crime no longer a crime. This is hugely problematic and makes very little sense when considered as part of a larger picture.

Nixon claims that cannabis use is “effectively legal” for white people but not for minorities. To some degree she is correct. According to the ACLU: “despite roughly equal usage rates, blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested.” This may sound startling, and it may in fact be problematic, but consider that the law is not inherently racist. It is simply words on a paper deeming interactions with a specific plant to be criminal behavior. You could decriminalize cannabis, but incarceration rates for minorities across the board will continue to out pace those of whites due to policing policy. In heavily populated urban areas which have a majority population of minorities, there is a higher police presence than in low populated rural areas which are predominantly white. And of course when there is a higher police presence, there is a higher likelihood a police officer will see a crime. Undoubtedly, there is some bias in the minds of some police officers who might release a white teen with a warning for smoking a joint, but would instead take a black teen doing the same thing down to the station, but not at a rate of 3.73 times more. And if you disagree with this, know that that as of 2012, 52% of the NYC police force was white.

Nixon’s went on to say:

There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me, it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that
white people do with impunity.

Let us think about this logically. Essentially, she is saying that because one race specific group is arrested for a crime more than another race, we should nullify the law that makes that specific action illegal; we do not need to consider how the law is enforced, that police departments encourage revenue generating tickets or arrests, that there are quotas within departments, or that unconstitutional policies like stop-and-frisk are an actual policy. Instead, we are going to focus on race. Let us humor Ms Nixon, in 2015 73% of all arsons were committed by white people, so according to Ms Nixon’s belief in absolving laws based on uneven racial conviction rates we should make arson legal.

This is racial ideology at it’s finest. And of course, the progressive left cannot see it and have missed the actual problem altogether. Arson, defined in common law as the malicious burning of the dwelling of another, should no doubt remain illegal as one individual is damaging, destroying, or otherwise negatively impacting the property of another individual: i.e. property rights. But consider cannabis use: cannabis use is one individual consuming a plant in a variety of methods to achieve an altered state of personal consciousness. The simple act of consuming the cannabis plant does not damage anyone’s property. This is where Nixon – and many other politicians – fail to recognize that the government has absolutely no jurisdiction over the legality of personal consumption of a plant. The individual is born with certain inalienable rights, and there is little doubt that the individual should have the right to do as they see fit with their own body, especially when it does not adversely effect any other individuals personal or property rights.

We do not allow the State to mandate birth control, vitamins, or supplements, so why is the State allowed to tell us what not to consume? Giving the State the power to approve what an individual puts into their bodies is essentially confirming a master. This is not an issue of race, it is an issue of personal property rights and self-ownership. The individual owns their body, not the State. When we advocate to end the War on Drugs, it should not be racially motivated, it should be reasoned that all individuals regardless of race have the right to choose what they do with their private property so long as they do not impinge upon another individual’s personal property. It should be reasoned that the individual owns their body, not the State.

No Solution in Sensationalism

I like to believe there was a time when journalism was journalism: when actual facts were checked with reputable references, not just some guy on Twitter who may or may not have fabricated a document. A time when newspapers and magazines sold because they contained pertinent information and facts that allowed the reader to form an educated opinion. I want to believe this, because this certainly is not the case in today’s world of “journalism.” We live in a time with an endless supply of media outlets constantly rushing to be the first to cover a story and in this rush, facts are lost and misrepresented – sometimes knowingly (Syria or Yemen anyone?). No longer can a media program survive on a channel, bolstered by programs of entertainment; instead a reporter must sell a story and garner their own ratings. A story must catch the viewers attention in the seconds it takes to flip to the next channel. A writer must convince the reader to click and follow along from a title and half a by-line. No longer are they reporters, but story tellers.

Journalism has turned into sensationalism. Every mainstream piece of media that trends on Twitter or Facebook or cycles through CNN, MSNBC, FOX, every single piece is sensationalized. They do not present facts, they confirm biases. They affirm their audiences belief. Unfortunately, if they want to stay alive, they must. But in the long run, who does this help? Surely it does not help the people who could do with learning just the facts before making a decision. Rather, it helps the media outlets. In a world where people are more concerned about one of the Kardashian’s butt implants, the latest celebrity to land in rehab, or the most recent football player to beat his girlfriend, we are drawn to drama and extreme emotions and the media devours us alive. It sells us sensationalized non-facts.

Consider the recent events in Parkland, Florida. All of social media was in an uproar a week later, not over the safety of children at school and how to resolve that issue, but over gun control. Why? Because that is a polarizing issue that can sell ad space and generate clicks. Is anyone going to argue that killing children is a good thing? Probably not. But what is something we can argue about? The Second Amendment. So that is what the media fires up; a story that will either outrage us, or confirm our already cemented beliefs. There is no more fair and balanced journalism. Everything has a side. It is the only way to sell. Let’s face it, no one is swayed because of a half-truth article CNN pushes out about how bad an AR is. (Consider AR stands for ArmaLite, the company who popularized the typical AR look. Also consider that by the US Army’s definition, the AR-15

So if someone shoots me with a handgun, it won’t hurt as much?

is not an assault rifle.) The people who are already anti-second amendment are cemented in those beliefs and the folks who are pro-second amendment are cemented in their beliefs. Both sides present “facts” about school shootings and gun violence and back those facts up with statistics from one source or another, but more often than not, these facts completely contradict each other, so who is wrong? In a rational world, we could have that discussion. We could debate openly about what these statistics mean and what information is faulty, but we are not rational. We are immediate. We are right. We are sensationalized.

If we could step back and look at things with perspective, we would realize that while shootings are not a good thing, there are other things going on with our children that are much worse. Consider that, according to the CDC, in 2015, 2,333 16-19 year old teens died in automobile accidents and another 200,000+ went to the emergency room. That breaks down to six teens per day, and that’s only 16-19 year olds! Now consider that 300 K-12 students have been killed in school since 1980. Understandably, no one wants their children to die, and certainly not at school, a place you are, to a degree, compelled to send your children, but at the same time, you cannot even compare those numbers. There are certainly much more dangerous things we allow our children to do every day, that we do not even blink at.

So why the outrage? Shootings impact a single community much more so than a car accident; when one community looses a member it grieves, but the more individuals a community looses to a single event, the higher the level of grief as more families are directly impacted. But let us look at it from the media’s perspective: who cares about a car accident? Is there any debate over whether or not we should use cars? Does anyone really proclaim that drunk driving is a good thing? Do we battle over what age teens should be allowed to drive? Or speed limits? Is the nation going to watch a piece about a car wreck in some no-name town? No! Cars are common place. Virtually everyone uses them or has knowledge how to use them. We grow up learning how to use them by watching adults model appropriate driving skills; we even learn how to use them in classroom settings. There is very little polarizing when it comes to cars (other than maybe emissions.) But guns, guns are different. Guns are not something everyone has. They are not objects everyone grows up learning to use as a part of life. We are convinced that only the criminal element needs guns. We are taught that guns are scary and should be feared. And that fear can be sensationalized. That fear can be sold.

Imagine what would happen if the media presented unbiased facts? Imagine if they helped create a discourse around safety in schools instead of polarizing the people and spreading propagandist half-truths as facts. It might not get the Tide-Pod-Eaters attention, but certainly it would help society a bit. So what do we do? Consider the opinions of others, consider their points. It is important for us all to realize that we are not right about everything; that our opinions are just that: opinions. To hold so tightly to our own opinions and belief structure that there is no room for others is sheer idiocy. The only way to advance as a society is to learn from the experiences of other people and try to understand them, to understand that our personal experiences do not apply to everyone. Believe it or not, the media and the pundits do not have the answers. They are not experts; they do not even know the facts. What they do know is how to sell a story and unfortunately, that story passes as news.

Considering Mental Health, the Second Amendment and New York’s SAFE Act

When something horrible happens in our personal lives, we grieve, and eventually we come around to make decisions in an attempt to modify future behavior, so naturally when tragedy strikes the nation, we look to our politicians to make decisions that will modify national behavior. There are a number of issues with this decision making process, and a number of different angles to approach it from.

Firstly, we must consider the state of our collective conscious when we make decisions regarding a constitutional amendment. The immediate days after a tragedy – let’s say a mass school shooting – everyone is politicized; everyone has an opinion; they are boisterous and short sighted. When we are emotionally charged, our judgement clouds, and we can become irrational without even realizing it. This is a normal part of the grieving process, but when we turn to politicians after something like Parkland, we run the risk of having our emotions taken advantage of by politicians who’s livelihood requires re-election. Just like you, politicians want to keep their jobs; they want to keep their income, and that means pleasing their constituents. Unfortunately, in times of collective social outcry when a seeming mob-mentality rules, pleasing constituents isn’t always best for everyone. If we look at knee-jerk reaction legislation, it has not done much to cede the initial cause for legislation, but has eroded some number of personal liberties and given more power to the government. For example, consider 9/11. A once privatized industry – flight security – is now run by the largest governmental agency created since WWII, the TSA. We are patted down, given full body scans, water bottles emptied, shoes and belts removed, minorities targeted. Do these things really make us safer in the skies? Certainly they make us feel safer, but at what cost? The TSA’s annual budget is 7.5 billion dollars. So within two months after a one-off event, the government took a privatized industry, and created a department with a $7.5 billion budget.


Remember Sandy Hook, one of the deadliest school shooting in US history? The days following, there was, of course, much heated debate about gun control and in neighboring New York state, legislation was quickly passed in the form of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act) one month after Sandy Hook. It passed, utilizing legislation within the NYS constitution that allows for bills to be expedited by the governor. The NY SAFE Act passed through both houses and received the governors signature in less than two full days. Once the bill passed, it was found to have a number of misguided provisions that called for restrictions that would inadvertently ban some common types of weapons and make some police weapons obsolete. For example, magazines sales were restricted to those that could only contain seven or less rounds – ten round clips were grandfathered in, but could only be loaded with seven rounds. This provision of the bill was later struck down. And more legislation had to be worked through later as the NY SAFE Act made no provision for police firearms. All this at cost to the NY tax payer. All things that should have been worked out prior to passage of the bill.

The NY SAFE Act also requires New Yorkers to re-register guns, and can sometimes be a confusing process as many of these guns have already been registered. When the final provision of the NY SAFE Act went into force at the end of January, 81,000 legal gun owners in NY became felons overnight for failing to register their weapons to NY’s new standards.

The biggest problem with the NY SAFE Act, however, has to do with a requirement of mental health practitioners to report to a state wide database if someone might cause harm to another. This database is then used to revoke permits and seize weapons. It may not seem like much, but this is a huge issue.

The NY SAFE Act may not seem to be invasive, and may even seem to have some “common sense” gun legislation in it, but when we consider it’s implications, it can quickly become quite nefarious and it’s something we must consider when we start to clamor for stricter gun laws and sales. The second amendment grants individuals the right to bear arms, the NY SAFE Act and other legislation would begin to limit these rights based on a soft medical condition.Undoubtedly there are times, when the mental state of an individual should probably preclude them from acquiring a weapon, but this is a very slippery slope.

Further consider the implications of the NY SAFE Act. If an individual reports to a mental health professional, including a physician, psychologist, nurse, or social worker and they deem the individual “is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others” they are required by law to report their findings to county officials who then agree or disagree with the professional’s findings and then put the individual’s name on a state wide registry. Once on the registry, any existing permits are revoked and an individual is no longer able to purchase a weapon; on top of that, any weapons currently owned by the individual are seized by the government until their name is expunged from the list. Ideally, this would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous, mentally unstable individuals, but there is a whole lot of room for things to go sideways. Imagine someone who owns a weapon, but is having some minor depression issues, and wants to seek counseling, would they still seek counseling now that the government could seize their weapons? This provision, without a doubt, jeopardizes mental health.

On top of jeopardizing mental health, consider that we are giving the government the ability to confiscate weapons for a non-criminal offense, we are removing someone’s second amendment right due to their state of mind. Where does this removal of rights stop? Once the government decides an individual is unfit to exercise their second amendment right, how long until the government decides that a person is unfit to practice speaking freely or worshiping freely? Or even voting freely? Is it that far fetched to imagine government requiring a mental health evaluation to acquire a gun permit? Remember, not long ago, the federal government used the IRS to target individuals of dissenting political beliefs; how long before they use the ATF? Do we really trust big government to ascertain an individuals ability to implement their rights afforded by the constitution in a fair and unbiased manner?

Surely, something needs to be done to stem the seemingly endless barrage of school violence, but before we rush into giving the government more power over individuals (that they never give back, mind you) let’s consider the long term and full scope impacts of our decisions. Let’s consider fixing the violence from all ends, including the social side that raises individuals who have such little – or perhaps such vast – self worth that they either can’t, or don’t grasp the immensity of killing innocent children. There are no easy answers, to this problem, but I can assure you, knee jerk solutions will only be rued.

Surely, something needs to be done to stem the seemingly endless barrage of school violence, but before we rush into giving the government more power over individuals (that they never give back, mind you) let’s consider the long term and full scope impacts of our decisions. Let’s consider fixing the violence from all ends, including the social side that raises individuals who have such little – or perhaps such vast – self worth that they either can’t, or don’t grasp the immensity of killing innocent children. There are no easy answers, to this problem, but I can assure you, knee jerk solutions will only be rued.