Last week, there really were a lot of controversial subjects covered by the media, and I had an opinion on all of them. I thought for the first time since I started writing my commentary, after leaving the New York City mayoralty, now 22 years out of office, I would this week provide brief comments on these issues.
Mayor Bloomberg announced he will seek to impose a restriction on theaters, restaurants and street vendors barring the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces. The purpose is to address rising obesity in the U.S., particularly of children. Currently, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese.
I support his efforts. Today nothing has worked to bring down rising obesity. Why attack as some have the mayor for taking a substantive action -- which may or may not work? He tried to get the legislature to raise taxes on sugary drinks. They refused. His efforts both educational and through the use of regulation and law have reduced the number of cigarette smokers. Many in positions of authority talk a good game; he does more than talk. He implements.
The U.S. by law allows the government to assassinate combatants fighting against the U.S., including both foreign nationals and American citizens. The program, shrouded in secrecy, has lots of critics -- I'm not one of them -- who believe it is or should be unlawful to execute people overseas who are enemies of the U.S. and have killed our troops and American citizens directly or indirectly through planning and enlisting killers. This was the situation in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, born an American citizen of a Muslim family, he went to Yemen and became a terrorist associated with al-Qaeda. He was responsible for recruiting Americans to the cause of terrorism. It was impossible to extradite him. He was killed by a drone, and President Obama has chosen to make the final decision in each case of putting a person's name on the list to be assassinated.
There are some who believe a president should not be involved in such discussions and should leave it to others. I believe he should be applauded for his willingness to take responsibility. However, I believe it preferable to have a federal court given the responsibility under the Patriot Act to set up appropriate procedures, in secrecy, as is the case with another secret court, which now provides wiretapping permissions under the Patriot Act. Indeed the same court could handle the assassination designations.
Actions like these that would be unacceptable in peacetime become acceptable in wartime. Remember the Islamist terrorists are committed to destroying Western civilization through killings and other acts of terrorism and bringing us to our knees economically. The Islamist terrorist war includes efforts to convert the entire world to radical Islam by force if necessary. Radical Islam allows Christians and Jews to continue to practice their religion. In the words of Bernard Lewis, foremost U.S. expert on Islam, only "if they accept the supremacy of Islam and that of the Muslim state. On that condition, they may continue in the practice of their religion."
I don't understand the legal basis for using drones to kill terrorists in Pakistan when the Pakistani government objects. They are a sovereign country with whom we are not at war. I also don't understand why we pretend they are allies, when they assist terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban and refuse to allow our military supply vehicles to use their roads to bring supplies to Afghanistan and, worst of all, why we continue to provide the Pakistani government with billions in economic and military aid every year. They are not our friends.
The American public should learn from the Japanese nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, the Japanese government did not tell its people the truth about the need for evacuation and other dangers and, I believe, no government, including our own will, under similar circumstances, because a nuclear catastrophe is so great that government is at a loss on how to deal with it. So they will lie to gain time within which they can, hopefully, come up with a coherent policy of survival. Our government should have learned from Chernobyl and Fukushima that nuclear energy plants are currently too dangerous to continue and the existing plants should be shut down.
There is a great deal of pressure directed at President Obama to send American troops into Syria to stop the mass murder by Syria's government of its own people. I say no. I think it was Bobby Kennedy who first used the phrase, "We cannot be the policeman of the world." Especially in this case, when the Arab League with 26 member nations could send in troops, as could Turkey, which has a common border with Syria and whose people share a common religion with a majority of Syrians: Islam.
Mr. President, do not cave to these demands that our young men and women be put in harm's way. Also, the question should be asked, why these same protesters in the U.S. and elsewhere haven't spoken out and demanded similar military action to protect the people of the Congo region of Africa? The media reports that 5 million African citizens have been murdered, raped and scattered to the wind.
It has become nearly impossible to fire public school teachers charged with sexual misconduct with students. One of the allegations is that the arbitrators selected have to be chosen jointly by the city government and the teachers' union. Those arbitrators with their minds on future assignments try to please both sides instead of simply rendering justice based on the facts of the cases. One way to deal with that is for the legislature to require such cases involving sexual misconduct in elementary and secondary public schools be tried by New York Supreme Court trial judges and that the courts put these cases at the head of their trial calendars.
John Edwards is a vile human being. He should be shunned by the public, but it is clear he did not commit the crimes with which he was charged, resulting in a hung jury and on the major charge, a verdict of not guilty. The government should not retry him. Let's see if he devotes the rest of his life to helping children, as he promised he would do.
Finally, why doesn't the federal government, particularly President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, support the legislation legalizing medical marijuana use and urge Congress to enact it? I could go on, but I'm running out of ink. So, I'll stop here.
Follow Ed Koch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mayoredkoch