Bans on Feeding the Homeless Are Discriminatory and Unconstitutional

In 1921, in Boston, an activist named Urbain Ledoux—going by the moniker Mr. Zero—happened on an idea to help unemployed veterans and their families. Ledoux, leader of what he called the “Church of the Unemployed,” would “auction” off the veterans in public parks. He hoped that the stark image of such auctions—which brought to mind horrific slave auctions that some still alive at the time would have witnessed in person—would galvanize the public and help find people work.

In Boston, where one such auction took place on the Common over several days, Ledoux and the veterans were overwhelmed by public support:

Small sums of cash were given daily; free food was delivered by restaurants and bakeries; an experienced cobbler set up shop to repair the shoes of the jobless; several women volunteered to sew and clean the bed linens; furniture was donated; a local dentist announced that he would take care of any toothaches that occurred among the unemployed; and…. scores, perhaps hundreds, of Ledoux’s followers obtained jobs as a result of the auctions.

Ledoux and his supporters met a different fate in New York City—at least initially. City police refused to let Ledoux’s group serve food. When his supporters served food in Bryant Park, police moved in and beat “forty jobless men who had gathered about six elderly women distributing sandwiches, cakes and crullers in the park.” The American Civil Liberties Union launched a complaint.

And, though Ledoux stepped into the spotlight from time to time, this was largely the end of his auctioneering days.

Read more here.

The Inside and Outside of CPAC 2012

“The Occupy movement, if it weren’t so dangerous to the American ideal, would be comical,” says John Thompson, a Rick Santorum supporter who attended The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which kicked off in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, February 9th, 2012.

CPAC is the premier annual gathering of the conservative movement, but this year not all the action was inside the convention center. Occupy D.C. was joined by the AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Nurses United, Metro Labor Council, and OurDC for a demonstration right outside. The group says it was protesting a “gathering of bigots, media mouthpieces, corrupt politicians, and their 1 percent elite puppet masters.”

Reason’s Lucy Steigerwald was on hand to see what all the fuss was about.

Produced by Jim Epstein, with help from Joshua Swain and Julie Ershad.

Approximately 4.30 minutes.

Read more here.

David Souter, Jim Crow, and the Living Constitution

Damon W. Root

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter gave a big commencement speech last week at Harvard University where he criticized originalism—the school of thought that says the Constitution should be read according to its original public meaning—for having “only a tenuous connection to reality.” According to liberal pundit E.J. Dionne, Souter’s speech proves that liberal champions of the “Living Constitution” now “have fighting words of their own.”

Fighting words, maybe. But accurate words? Not exactly.

Souter argued that originalism has nothing useful to say about the racial segregation imposed by the South’s Jim Crow regime, and claimed that it was only thanks to living constitutionalism that the Supreme Court eventually nullified the vile doctrine of “separate but equal.” Here’s the relevant portion of his commencement speech:

[Brown v. Board of Education] ended the era of separate-but-equal, whose paradigm was the decision in 1896 of the case called Plessy v. Ferguson, where the Supreme Court had held it was no violation of the equal protection guarantee to require black people to ride in a separate railroad car that was physically equal to the car for whites. One argument offered in Plessy was that the separate black car was a badge of inferiority, to which the court majority responded that if black people viewed it that way, the implication was merely a product of their own minds. Sixty years later, Brown held that a segregated school required for black children was inherently unequal.

For those whose exclusive norm for constitutional judging is merely fair reading of language applied to facts objectively viewed, Brown must either be flat-out wrong or a very mystifying decision. Those who look to that model are not likely to think that a federal court back in 1896 should have declared legally mandated racial segregation unconstitutional. But if Plessy was not wrong, how is it that Brown came out so differently?

Here’s the problem with Souter’s claims: The Plessy decision is wrong under an originalist reading of the Constitution. Originalism includes the original public meaning of the 14th Amendment, which commands: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Among those privileges or immunities is the right to economic liberty. Remember that the origins of the 14th Amendment lie in the anti-slavery politics of the Radical Republicans who drafted it and spearheaded its ratification. Their philosophy centered on a radically libertarian form of self-ownership, one that included both the right to armed self-defense and the right to liberty of contract. That philosophy was enshrined in the Constitution when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

In Plessy, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana law that forbid railroad companies from selling first-class tickets to black customers. That law was a blatant violation of economic liberty under the 14th Amendment and should have been struck down as such. That the Supreme Court failed to do so isn’t an indictment of originalism, it’s an indictment of the justices who failed to take the Constitution at its word.

Just another act of deadly treason

Petraeus: People will die thanks to the leak of his classified order.

By Ralph Peters

Yesterday, The New York Times published another front-page article based on a leaked classified document. This time, it was an order signed by Gen. David Petraeus authorizing black operations against adversaries and such dubious friends as Iran, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Gee, thanks. We really needed to know that. The world’s a better place now.

Yet the Times’ sin was the lesser one. The paper has long since given up any pretense of patriotism. (Ugh! Yuck!) Its editors are just publishing and perishing as citizens of the world.

It’s whoever leaked the document that bears the burn-in-hell blame.

We must be able to keep secrets in wartime. But we can’t. Because domestic political agendas trump national security in every administration nowadays.

Exposing that seven-page classified document warned our enemies (and pseudo friends) that we’ve expanded our efforts to uncover terror networks and potential targets. This not only increases the virulent paranoia in the region’s police states, but poses a mortal danger to agents, special operators and the innocent.

Our bravest men and women will face heightened risks and difficulties in executing their missions — and businessmen, tourists and (did the Times think this through?) journalists will also come under greater suspicion. Innocent people and regime opponents will be executed as spies. And does anyone think that publicizing this program will help those three hikers held for a year in Iran?

In fact, there’s a far greater risk of harm to blundering bystanders than to skilled operatives. The Tehran regime, especially, will use the revelation of this document as an excuse to imprison more democracy advocates — or kill them.

Think the jerk who leaked this order considered any of these consequences? What was the benefit in handing these classified papers to a journalist? It won’t help fight terror, save lives or end a war.

The document was handed over in a cynical attempt to score political points. There’s no other plausible explanation. Some party hack with a security clearance believed this order would show that the Obama administration’s doing something about Iran.

The only question is whether this betrayal was the act of an individual, or if it was orchestrated.

I’d hang the leaker by the neck, then cut down the body and give it a fair trial. But nobody’s going to be punished. High-ranking officials can get away with manslaughter, if not murder. An Army captain would go to prison. A political appointee can expect a promotion.

This disgraceful culture of leaks isn’t just a problem with Obama’s disciples, of course. The previous administration frequently leaked classified material for political gain. Leaking of classified information has become just one more tool of national politics. Neither party cares a damn about protecting our secrets — unless it can score against the other team.

As far as the actual Petraeus order goes, it’s just the sort of bureaucratic document required by our system to authorize commonsense activities against our enemies. I would’ve been shocked had the order denied permission to collect intelligence on our enemies and conduct lethal operations on hostile ground. This is what serious security establishments do. We should have done more of it earlier.

The problem with the security breach is that it alerts our enemies. The best black operations employ diversions to draw the enemy’s attention to another sphere. You want him looking east, when you’re working the west. Publicizing this document shines a spotlight on our efforts.

Even the sloppiness of the reporting is offensive. The Times’ reporter uses the adjectives “covert” and “clandestine” interchangeably. Yet they have profoundly different meanings.

A covert operation must be kept secret until the mission is accomplished. A clandestine program is meant to remain secret until doomsday (usually to protect sources and methods).

But accuracy doesn’t matter any more than does our national security. A journalist got a front-page byline. A political hack believes that he or she made President Obama look manlier in dealing with Iran. So what if our agents and special operators were betrayed?

People will die or be jailed and tortured because of this leak. And nobody on this end will be punished. Because nobody in Washington gives a damn.

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Endless War.”

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