Former New York mayor Ed Koch, on the occasion of his defeat in the 1989 Democratic primary by the late David Dinkins, was asked if he would again seek public office. “No,” he said. “The people have spoken . . . and they must be punished.”
Well and properly punished they were, as things turned out. During Dinkins’s single term as mayor, crime and disorder in New York City reached their horrifying zenith. In 1990, 2,245 people were murdered in the city, one factor among many that earned Dinkins the reputation as the most feckless man ever to occupy City Hall. (Only recently has a challenger emerged.)
Now stepping up to be similarly punished are the voters of Los Angeles County, who in their wisdom have installed George Gascón as district attorney. Gascón is the latest of the so-called social justice prosecutors to win election in some of America’s major cities, following in the path of Kim Foxx in Chicago, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco.
Gascón was unabashed in embracing social justice themes during the campaign but gave little hint of the sweeping changes he would institute within minutes of taking office. He was officially sworn in at noon on Dec. 7, and at 12:03 p.m. that day an email was sent to all D.A. staff announcing the immediate implementation of nine new policies which go far beyond those he practiced in his former post as district attorney in San Francisco.
The cumulative effect of these policies will be threefold: fewer criminals will be sent to jail or prison; those who are imprisoned will serve shorter sentences; and many already convicted and behind bars will be released years before they might have been. Even some inmates now serving life without parole for murder will be allowed to petition for resentencing and even release under Gascón’s new guidelines.
In keeping with the Orwellian manipulation of the language so drearily common to the modern leftist, certain words will be excised from the vernacular of the courthouse in Los Angeles County. “Today,” begins Gascón’s Special Directive on Resentencing, “California prisons are filled with human beings charged, convicted and sentenced under prior District Attorneys’ policies.”
The jarring use of the term “human beings” is explained in a footnote: “We will seek to avoid using dehumanizing language such as ‘inmate,’ ‘prisoner,’ ‘criminal,’ or ‘offender’ when referencing incarcerated people.” One wonders how they will come to euphemize the term “crime victim,” the numbers of whom will surely surge in Los Angeles County before voters regain their senses and Gascón is ultimately turned out of office.
If only abuse of the language were the worst of it. The new policies are the stuff of a defense attorney’s fever dreams, as Gascón has in effect enacted a separate penal code for Los Angeles County, one of his own and his leftist enablers’ creation. He has vowed to ignore various provisions of California law and give those arrested on a variety of misdemeanor beefs a free pass. Charges of trespassing, driving without a license or with a suspended license, disturbing the peace, criminal threats, and even resisting arrest will be “declined or dismissed before arraignment and without conditions.” Non-specific exemptions will be allowed, but given the overall tenor of the policy such exceptions will of course be rare.
As disturbing as this might be, it pales in comparison to how more serious crimes will now be addressed. California has over the years enacted a number of sentencing enhancements covering particular circumstances in broader areas of crime. For example, someone convicted of robbery might have his sentence extended if he was armed with a weapon at the time of the crime. Like the underlying charges, each of these “special allegations” must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury or admitted by a defendant before a sentence can be enhanced.
Gascón has eliminated these special allegations, including those defined as “special circumstances” in murder cases that make defendants eligible for the death penalty or life without parole, or "LWOP" in courthouse shorthand. “Special Circumstances allegations” says the new policy, “resulting in an LWOP sentence shall not be filed, will not be used for sentencing, and shall be dismissed or withdrawn from the charging document.”
More troubling still is Gascón’s policy on the death penalty, which will no longer be sought even in the most heinous of murders. Consider this recent case: On Nov. 29, sheriff’s detectives allege, Maurice Taylor decapitated his 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, then for the next five days forced his two surviving younger sons, ages 8 and 9, to remain in the home and look at the mutilated bodies.
Under California law the crime would meet the definition of two special circumstances, to wit, multiple victims, and the fact that the murders were “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity,” making Taylor eligible for a death sentence or life without parole. Who would argue he isn’t deserving at least of the latter? Gascón would. Under his new policies, Taylor will face a maximum sentence of 57 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and this assumes the imposition of consecutive rather than concurrent sentences.
The death penalty policy comes laden with footnotes citing academic studies purporting to show capital punishment is ineffective and rooted in racism. It is here that Gascón engages in some dishonest sleight of hand. He asserts on page 2 of the policy that “the death penalty serves no penological purpose as state sanctioned killings do not deter crime.”
The assertion is footnoted to a 1999 article, “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists,” by Michael L. Radelet and Traci L. Lacock, in which it is claimed, as stated in the footnote, that “88.2% of the polled criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent.” Whatever the actual evidence might be, a poll among academic criminologists, most of whom are ideologically opposed to the death penalty in any event, can hardly be said to be dispositive, especially given the paltry sample size of 76 people, a detail one only finds buried in an appendix. Yet Gascón presents this assertion as though it bore Delphic certitude.
Taking the academic obfuscation a step further, the same footnote cites a 2012 study, “Deterrence and the Death Penalty,” by the National Research Council of the National Academies, which, the footnote claims, found that using a “deterrent effect as justification for capital punishment is ‘patently not credible’ based on meta-analysis of studies conducted.”
Again, this is not completely accurate. What the study actually says is more narrowly focused. “The homogeneous response restriction,” it says, “that the effects [of capital punishment] are the same for all states and all time periods seems patently not credible.” What’s more, the study explicitly states the available evidence is insufficient to determine the effect of capital punishment on homicide rates.
The Conclusion and Recommendation section of the study reads, in part: “consequently, claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate by a specified amount or has no effect on the homicide rate should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment [emphasis added].” Despite this clear admonishment, Gascón dishonestly uses the study as support for his own preferred policy prescriptions.
The city of Los Angeles, by far the largest of L.A. County’s 88 municipalities, is already suffering from an increase in violent crime. Homicides investigated by the LAPD are up by 29 percent over last year, and late November saw the city’s 300th murder victim, a benchmark not seen in ten years. If Gascón’s social justice methods are effective, surely this trend will reverse itself quickly.
There is little reason to suppose this will happen, however, as evidenced by those cities where social justice prosecutors already hold office. In Chicago, where Kim Foxx has been elected to a second term and her policies are well established, homicides are up 55 percent from last year. In Larry Krasner’s Philadelphia, homicides are up 38 percent, and in Chesa Boudin’s San Francisco they’re up 39 percent.
As should be obvious to all by now, the appending of an adjective to the word “justice,” whether it be social, environmental, economic, or what have you, signals in the user a desire not for actual justice, but rather some bastardized version of it suited to whichever favored group does the appending. George Gascón embodies social justice on stilts, and he owes no small measure of his success to handful of well-heeled leftist donors. George Soros leads the list, with reported contributions to Gascón totaling $2.25 million.
Like Soros, none of Gascón’s other deep-pocketed supporters lives in Los Angeles and will suffer none of the bloody consequences they’ve helped to bring about. How's that for justice?
It needs to be said: radical environmentalism is both a scam and a destroyer, hiding behind a smiling-face-with-hearts emoji.
I have little doubt that Jim Jones and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, once much-loved messianic figures, would today be staunch environmentalists. In fact, Jones’ “apostolic socialism” movement was called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, which culminated, as we recall, in “revolutionary suicide.”
And one of the central concepts in the Reverend Moon’s Divine Principle is the responsible stewardship of the earth and a caring attitude for the entirety of nature. This doctrine did not prevent him from incarcerating and brainwashing the members of his Unification Church, while operating among his many businesses a car manufacturing plant in North Korea, a sea food consortium, media and estate agencies, and a munitions racket that funded his mansions, castles and large properties around the world. For some of the shadier characters in the salvation business, a tenderness for nature can become a most profitable proposition.
In fact, liberal environmentalism is the cutting edge of the movement for bureaucratized state control of both private life and free market economics, not only conscripting the media, the NGOs, government departments and the intellectual classes to advance its agenda but shrewdly operating through the very corporations it seeks to regulate by offering tax and other incentives to ensure compliance. And it seems to be working.
The former Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, author of Blue Planet in Green Shackles, is on the mark when he warns of the irrationality of the bullish “global warming” industry: “As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism… Let us not scare ourselves with catastrophic forecasts, or use them to defend and promote irrational interventions in human lives.”
Like Vaclav Klaus, we might one day find ourselves living under a regime that would in many ways resemble the Communist nightmare from which half of Europe has only recently emerged. Similarly, in Left in Dark Times, Bernard-Henri Levy speaks of “the former Reds who have now turned Green and the friends-of-nature type of Greens who have now become greens of the revolutionary jihad variety.”
Green has become big business even though its effects have been largely counter-productive. It should be obvious by this time that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the ecological fence. What we see at work is the bizarre confluence of leftist autocracy and wealth known as fascism, that is, corporate totalitarianism, in which capital wealth is placed at the service of but also facilitates the rule of the managerial state. As Jonah Goldberg (among others) elucidates in Liberal Fascism, fascism and communism are kissing cousins, totalitarian movements and regimes that differ only in the disposition of industrial authority, but to the same end.
Corporate totalitarianism is now an internecine phenomenon, predicated on corruption. Robert Morton points out in the first of a multi-part series for The Pipeline that the major “charitable” foundations enjoy lucrative dealings with national competitors while at the same time aiming for oligarchic control of the very nations they putatively serve—all in the name of creating an egalitarian society where the environment is preserved by its self-appointed custodians and stewards, and men can live in harmony with nature. But the underlying motive is almost always money and power.
Morton mentions, for example, the Sea Change Foundation, Renaissance Technologies, Klein Ltd. and their umbrella entity the Lord Jim Trust. These organizations, which have “funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States,” are run by “executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests.” Cui bono? Clearly neither the environment nor the climate. The founders and managers of these firms and trusts are profiting handsomely, as is the state-owned Russian oil company, Rosneft.
These left-wing, faux-environmental trusts, foundations and endowments tend to breed like rabbits on steroids. They are owned and managed by obscenely wealthy people who flourish in a privileged milieu of money, influence, business deals and political connections. The Tides Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation (which “contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world,” according to its promo), are among the most notorious of these progressivist organizations.
Other such concerns, reported by the Capital Research Center, include the California Endowment, the Chicago Community Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Memorial Trust, the Union Square Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Novo Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Ben and Jerry Foundation, the Sierra Fund and of course the George Soros Open Society Foundations.
These enterprises are collectively awash in billions of dollars which they use, under the guise of public charity, to promote their own interests. What author Hayden Ludwig says of Tides seems true across the board: “Using a sophisticated funding model, Tides has grown into a leading platform for laundering away ties between wealthy donors and the radical causes they fund—while generating hundreds of new organizations along the way.” That is, many of these groups are conveniently set up to obscure the connection between donors and grantees, many of these latter violent activists who blockade railways, disable pipelines and foment riots.
Such consortiums, then, are designed “to maximize the flow of donations to far-left nonprofits while minimizing donors’ public exposure to the fruits of their largesse.” The motives behind these left-wing philanthropists and groups are a blend of fiscal and political objectives, promoting a “social justice” agenda, a single-party state governed by a plutocratic and technological elite (called “democratic socialism” and “the Great Reset”), and ultimately a monopoly controlling the nation’s wealth.
The environment in which these plutocratic pseudo-philanthropists function, and which galvanizes their interest is not river, land and air but finance, stocks and power. The only hedges they care about are hedge funds. The only power they are interested in is not electrical but political. The fact that the engine of Green energy will render the landscape unsightly, leak toxins into soil and water, remain variously unreclaimable and undisposable, fail to supply sufficient power to sustain a nation’s infrastructure without oil, gas and coal back-up, cost hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of jobs, and crush the population under a punitive tax-and-utility burden is of no account to them. After all, they are our gracious benefactors, complaisant and benign, “friends of nature” laboring to save the planet, just like Jim Jones and the Reverend Moon.
One thinks of Hamlet: “A man may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”
As responsible citizens, we must do our utmost to put the brakes on hasty and poorly thought-out Green infatuations and should proceed carefully and slowly to develop and introduce so-called “renewables” to offset a portion of our energy consumption without collapsing the economy and without fattening the revenues of parasitical corporations intent on political domination.
Above all, caution, thorough study and robust skepticism should be our watchwords. Beware the smiling emojis.