Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Berkeley city council vs the Patriot Right. Can't they both lose?

The city of Berkeley, California is back in the news. There is no doubt that if Berkeley leaned further to the Left it would float out to sea. This is the sort of town where Michael Moore is seen as a conservative. The town was taken over years ago by a cadre of Far Left activists. And it shows. I was recently in Berkeley to have a manuscript bound into a book. And I remembered how Telegraph Avenue used to be a wonderful place to go hunting for old books.

I was hoofing it that day so I walked down Dwight Way and turned onto Telegraph. The number of panhandlers was a bit disconcerting. And it is clear that some of them are loony as they come -- any crazier and they could get elected to the city council. Telegraph Avenue itself was a major disappointment. It was dirty and shoddy. There were vacant stores and many that were operating were as unkempt and unattractive as the street in general. The massive Cody’s Books was done. All that remained was a large empty building.

If you wanted junk shops and crap there was plenty on sale. I walked through the old business area for several blocks and and decided to head back to the BART station and leave. I assumed I do several buying trips but the shops and Berkeley that I remembered are now all ghosts.

The city council is notoriously anti-property owner and antibusiness. And they the condition of their business district shows they have succeeded. I read a comment somewhere about how “Berkeley’s redevelopment plan has worked spectacularly -- for Emeryville.” I have been shopping in Emeryville and would go back, and plan to. But Berkeley is off my list. The city council has run the community into the ground.

These comments introduce my main topic -- the controversy in Berkeley over the city council voting to tell the recruiting office for the U.S. Marines that are not welcome in the city. Antiwar demonstrators, some rather far to the Left, have been camped out in front of the recruiting office. Periodically an equally disgusting group of “patriots” show up to mouth the sort of mindless slogans but with a Right-wing bent.

When it got out that the city council voted to tell the Marines they were not welcome, the “patriots” went gaga! They fussed and fumed and immediately started looking for ways to punish Berkeley. Third-rate conservative politicians and brainless conservative pundits began suggesting various laws to strip the city of any federal or state funds which it receives.

When the pro-war Right starts huffing and puffing I realize just how disgusting they can be. On the other hand the city council of Berkeley is such a repulsive lot. But one has to pick a side, doesn’t one? Either you think Berkeley is wrong or not. Either you think it should be punished or not. You can think it wrong and deserving punishing. And you can think them wrong but not deserving punishment. Or you can think them right and undeserving punishment. I supposed for some incomprehensible reason you can think them right but deserving punishment as well.

So where do I come down on this.

First, whether they are right or wrong, I am dismayed at this use of threats against the city council. What tax funds are taken ought to stay at the local level. I don’t believe taxes should ever be taking to a higher level of government so that the politicians there can use the funds to reward their friends or punish their enemies at the local government. It’s bad enough your money is stolen from you but to then have it used a leverage to force you to toe the line of some more powerful level of government is disgusting.

I find this sort of action contrary to the basic principles of good government. Such threats violate the principles of federalism that many conservatives were known to love -- or to fake it very well. Using such funds to punish a town, or to reward special interests such as through earmarks, is an example of the sort of rot and corruption that infests power politics. On those grounds I don’t think Berkeley should be punished. And I find these calls to punish the city to be cheap theatrics.

But is the city council wrong to do what it did? They did not pass a law. They passed a resolution saying the Marines are not welcome in Berkeley. And with these Lefties on one side and with Patriots on the side I was tempted to sit it out and hope they beat the shit out of each other. It couldn’t happen to two more deserving groups. I didn’t particularly want to side with either of them. And as disgusting as I find the pro-war Right I find the sort of Lefties who run Berkeley as stomach churning.

Today I finally made up my mind. What did it for me was another issue which I have written about many times here: the abuse imposed on the public by rabid cops, drunk on their power.

I am appalled on a regular basis by the way America’s “finest” are trampling on people and ignoring Constitutional rights. I have long ago concluded that the police in America are a threat to decency and to limited government. They act more like thugs than like peace officers. Yet, they can provide a legitimate service -- the protection of life, liberty and property. Unfortunately they no longer act exclusively to protect rights and far too frequently they are a threat to peaceful people everywhere. Even though there is a justified reason to have law enforcement (the protection of rights) I have not exempted the police from the criticism they deserve because they no longer act as guardians of the peace but as those disturbing it.

But what is a national military force but police meant to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens from foreign attack. The moral justification of a military is the same justification used for a local police force. As long as they are defending the United States they have a legitimate function.

But they are not defending the United States as much as acting as the armed gang of Washington politicians. They are invading nations and making offensive wars, not defending our beaches from hoards of invaders. They are the enforcers of America’s interventionist foreign policy. And that means they have moved from defending liberty to violating it.

If they acted as agents for a defensive policy I would not side with the city council of Berkeley. But our military is not defending American, they are helping implement a neoconservative world empire. And in my view, that makes the Marines into a criminally-inclined organization, much the many cops today are criminals. Now let me clarify what I mean by criminal. I don’t mean someone who merely violates the law. I specifically and exclusively mean someone who violates the rights of others.

Most criminal acts that we think of, when the word crime is mention, are those sorts of violations of life, liberty or property. It is rape, theft, murder and the variations thereof. Just as the American police today systematically commit crimes at the local level the U.S. military engages in crime at the international level. Both have legitimate functions of defending rights but both have neglected those functions to go on the offensive.

Just as rogue cops should be chucked off the police force I have no problem in the city of Berkeley taking on the U.S. military for its systematical violation of rights. Admittedly I’d believe them a bit more if they identified the enemy as the federal government full stop. The military only implements the policy but the entire bureaucracy is responsible for it. I would have gone farther. I would have used local law to prevent the recruiting of anyone in a criminal organization and I would include the U.S. Marines in that category -- I say that reluctantly since my father was a Marine.

The sad fact is that an interventionist foreign policy means our armed forces are no long peace keepers protecting our rights. They are criminals violating the rights of others around the world at the bidding of the Washington political classes.

I don’t like siding with the Berkeley city council especially after seeing how they have ruined Berkeley. And while I think they are right in their motion I don’t think they have the vaguest idea why they are right. These are not people who understand the moral imperative of limiting government powers to that of protecting rights only. They are right in this issue entirely by accident. The Marines and their defenders are wrong. The city council is right but for they have no idea why they are right. And the principles that would vindicate them in this case are principles they don’t understand or practice. But given a choose between the two groups I would have to side with the city council -- with qualifications as explained here.

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