Log in Subscribe

A few of our stories and columns are now in front of the paywall. We at The Chief-Leader remain committed to independent reporting on labor and civil service. It's been our mission since 1897. You can have a hand in ensuring that our reporting remains relevant in the decades to come. Consider supporting The Chief, which you can do for as little as $3.20 a month.

Wake-up call

An embarrassment of faults


It was Parent Nature's fault: Mr. and Mrs. Ramapo Fault.

The recent earthquake was not a nothingburger, even though there were no casualties and only a couple of buildings were damaged beyond repair. This anticlimax was a relief. 

Our city, and beyond, is being rendered uninhabitable because of politically seismic decisions of far greater magnitude. Tectonic displacements are taking the form of population exodus and disillusionment with the course of nationhood. The bedrock of civilization is being pulled out from under us like a rug.

But the earthquake was helpful in lifting the pall of communal attention from Biden and Trump, their real or imagined collusion, allegations of electoral shenanigans, predisposed magistrates, familial RICO ventures, tainted bonds of association, rampant shoplifting, penalty-free sucker punches, anti and pro-government cheap shots and wars of geopolitical hegemony and struggles to inhibit and thwart genocide yet again.

The earthquake (and the solar eclipse also) got top billing over the petty preoccupations of our ordinary lives. We were in the grip and bleachers of nature's mysterious and non-negotiable power. A home run for the Unknown! It seemed like the cosmos, which normally seems to pay us no mind because we take it for granted, was challenging, maybe toying with us. 

It made us feel important in the scheme of things, not only to ourselves, as we are accustomed. If you felt the earth move under your feet, it was most likely not the Creator's wrath, but rather Carole King's voice.

The fantasy of ruin played out in our heads like a biblical drama. In mine, anyway. I was stuck in traffic on the Van Wyck half-expecting rubble from the AirTrain to topple down and bury us motorists, causing delays even longer than usual.

The city that never sleeps took a nap that day. 

Social media alerted us to what had happened long before the city's emergency management awakened at the wheel. Their notifications came over and over and around-the-clock, with the same stale information. They urged us to call "311" to report damage. 

That number exists strictly to expedite the tossing of New Yorkers' complaints into the city's circular file. It is a broker between New Yorkers and government agencies, whose function is to deflect complaints, gum up the works of accountability and placate aggrieved taxpayers by giving them hope that the city will take timely action.

For weeks following my first report of a problem in a playground several months ago, I heard crickets. After two subsequent unsuccessful attempts, I no longer hear those crickets because they have retired due to injury from rubbing their wings together ceaselessly.

Instead of streamlining access to government services, "311" flatlines it.

Earthquakes originate in what is called their "hypocenter.” Not all such events are geological.  Physical landscapes can be catastrophically altered suddenly. So can the terrain of attitudes and norms of behavior and governments' relationship to them. "Earthquake" can be an apt metaphor to describe the shock waves that are surfacing in society.

As a result of a class-action lawsuit by two Muslim women who were forced to remove their religious head coverings for NYPD mugshots, the city will pay $17.5 million for having violated the women's civil rights. Approximately 3,600 affected women may each receive around $5,000.  Sikh, Jewish and other groups will also benefit from this ruling.

This victory for religious freedom is not a defeat for legitimate police authority, though it will be widely seen as such.

Why did the officers deem it necessary for the women to remove their hijabs? Did the officers deliberately defy, were they conveniently unaware, or were they authentically ignorant of the NYPD having prohibited this invasion measure several years ago? Was there anything articulable about the women's conduct that gave reasonable cause to believe the removal of the hijabs was essential? 

It has been determined that hijabs can be worn in passport photos because full facial features are visible.

There are rare circumstances, such as at border crossings, when it is not only acceptable, but imperative to ensure an accurate identification of a person. Inspections and verification need to be done with minimal intrusiveness consistent with accomplishing a legitimate, demonstrable function of law enforcement. 

The rights of individuals can be protected without sacrificing the interests of the larger community. All communication and contact must be tactful, non-judgmental, witnessed by other officers and, where appropriate, conducted away from public view by members of the subject's own gender.

Stories about freedom of religious expression tend to have more red herrings than the Caribbean Sea. And demagogues angling their lines. Now from heartbreaking to merely breaking news. 

It seems the adult cannabis industry is being controlled by people under an influence. Of political enticements.

State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant recently ruled that marijuana dispensaries could advertise on third-party platforms, and that the state's rules banning it were unconstitutional. That ruling was denounced and amended faster than the 60-mph punch of a Mantis shrimp.

Since legalization three years ago, the cannabis industry has a long way to go to fulfill its promise. According to Marijuana Business Daily, there are 24 illicit stores for every licensed adult-use marijuana shop. Legal challenges and problems with regulation remain. The New York Times indicates there are over 2,000 "illicit operators" in the state and, says the Office of Cannabis Data, 87 retailers with proper permits. 

New York's lawful marijuana sales of $150 million is minuscule, compared with Missouri, for example.

Marijuana farmers must cut production because there are so few legal vendors for them to supply. Instead of accelerating the pace of new licenses, the weed constables are going after commodity-providers as though they were prohibition-era bootleggers. We've come a long way since that 1930’s film "Reefer Madness.” Originally a warning to the world, it has risen to be a flick of unparalleled hilarity.

Marijuana, whether for recreational or medical use, is usually superior to psychotropic drugs, which often chemically lobotomize and leave their consumers in a stupor. In the carefully guarded and fortified symbiotic partnership between addiction doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, it is advantageous to maintain patients and consumers in states of suspended animation and gross dependency.

A thousand total eclipses will have come and gone before this nation stops wasting trillions of dollars and invests it instead in research to cure cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia and hundreds of other hideous plagues. That would mean that kindergartners wouldn't have to go to shopping centers with cups in hand, pleading for nickels and dimes. 

But Big Pharma and their fixers in government will never let that happen.

We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here