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Cabs and Alcohol:

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

About three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Somalis, many of them Muslim. And about three times each day, would-be customers are refused taxi service when a driver sees they're carrying alcohol.

"It's become a significant customer-service issue," said Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, on Thursday.

Now the airports commission has a solution: color-coding the lights on the taxi roofs to indicate whether a driver will accept a booze-toting fare. The actual colors haven't been decided on yet, but commission officials met Thursday with representatives of the taxi drivers and the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society to continue working on the plan.

The airports commission has struggled with the issue for several years. Alcohol is a serious concern for devout Muslims, said Hassan Mohamud, an imam and vice president of the society. The Qur'an, Islam's holy book, strictly forbids buying, selling, drinking or carrying alcohol.

The observant drivers object only to transporting openly displayed alcohol, said Ali Culed, a Somali Muslim who's been driving an airport cab for eight years. They won't search passengers or quiz them about what's in their bags.

"It is a religious issue," Culed said. "I cannot force anybody to change their belief, but not in my cab. I don't want the guilt. I just want to be an innocent person." ...

The color-coding sounds like a good solution -- it lets cab drivers choose how to run their businesses, and it lets the airport provide its customers with the service they want. One can certainly imagine hypothetical situations in which such schemes would become too difficult to use; and I suspect that heavy government regulation of taxicabs (which I take it is present in Minneapolis, as it is in many other cities) causes extra problems here, because it sets up a barrier to entry. But given the situation as it is, some such mutual accommodation strikes me as quite sensible.

Fran (mail) (www):
Wouldn't this be subject to the provisions of a 'common carrier'?

I envision a balkanized society...

-a muslim ambulance driver who won't transport an accident victim, who happened to be drunk

-a devout Christian cab driver who won't transport a known homosexual

-a devout Christian cab driver who won't transport a couple, who are known to co-habitate

When does it end???
9.29.2006 1:43pm
Yankev (mail):
Wait until the Spring Valley NAACP learns of this!
9.29.2006 1:43pm
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:
This is reasonable. Please. A closed container of alcohol. They should take the fare or lose their license. Just like NYC taxis, which are required by the TLC to take any passenger to any destination in the city. A violent or beligerant passenger is an exception. What next, these muslims won't drive jews around. I can see that coming soon.
9.29.2006 1:46pm
John Steele (mail):
This issue falls into the category of regulated professionals whose morals may clash with the morals of the public that relies on those professionals. For example, we have judges and pharmacists who don't want to facilitate women who are making certain choices over their reproductive rights. In general (but not always), I favor the rights of the public over the personal rights of the professional, and I certainly do in this case, where taxis are an important mode of transportation. In no sense should the reasonable person consider the taxi driver to be vouching for, or responsible for, the lawful behavior of the occupant.

If the objection is to open alcohol in a moving vehicle -- that is, is a safety objection based on well-supported reasons -- then I support the drivers in their efforts to ban drinking entirely in moving cabs.
9.29.2006 1:47pm
James968 (mail):
I could see how this could also work against the devout muslims (i.e. as a 'jewish star' sort of thing).
9.29.2006 1:48pm
James968 (mail):
I remember reading somewhere that in Oman/Qatar (?) that more religious muslim taxi drivers will not pick up women (not accompanied by a male), is that the next thing they will want a MSP?

As long as the customer is not drunk, I don't think this should be allowed.
9.29.2006 1:51pm
JRL:
This sure sounds like a government establishment of religion to me. (assuming the cabs are licensed and limited in number)
9.29.2006 1:55pm
Steven Vickers:
This sure sounds like a government establishment of religion to me. (assuming the cabs are licensed and limited in number)

Is there any legal precedent that counts government licensing as tantamount to government establishment? I'm honestly curious, I've never heard anything along those lines. It's certainly contrary to public policy in some other areas, such as broadcasting (where there are limited licenses, but religious programming is rightfully not discriminated against).
9.29.2006 2:03pm
Steve:
I wonder what the correlation would be between people who think pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to sell birth control, and people who don't think cab drivers should be allowed to refuse service to people carrying alcohol.
9.29.2006 2:03pm
Nick (www):
This seems especially strange to me given that we as a society encourage those who have been drinking to take cabs, to prevent them from driving their own cars home when they are not sober enough to do so.
9.29.2006 2:07pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Steve: And I wonder what the correlation is between believing that Catholic pharmacists should be forced to sell birth control/abortion drugs and believing that Muslim cab drivers should be allowed to refuse service to people carrying alcohol.
9.29.2006 2:08pm
Mark Seecof (mail):
Yeah! What everyone before me wrote! Let's apply the modern civil-liberties test: "would we let the [[drivers]] refuse to [[transport]] homosexuals?" We don't let landlords refuse to rent to gays. We don't let restaurateurs refuse to seat gay couples in curtained booths (in California anyway, see Rolon v. Kulwitzky). I doubt we would allow taxicab drivers to leave drag queens on the curb. So we should not allow these cabdrivers to strand passengers bearing (sealed containers of) alcohol! People unwilling to drive any law-abiding, well-behaved passenger should leave the taxicab business. The local authorities should rescind the licenses of those who don't.

(If you don't like the "gay customer" test, consider whether you would allow some skinhead driver to leave a passenger wearing a yarmulke or a star-of-David necklace on the curb.)

(Also, I would cheerfully support letting limousine firms/drivers (that is, reserved car services that don't pick up street-hail or taxi-stand fares) discriminate, IF AND ONLY IF we extend the same tolerance to everyone else in business (say, restaurateurs as in my example above). If I had my druthers, we would enforce broad anti-discrimination rules ONLY on people who serve the public in situations where alternatives are hard to come by.)
9.29.2006 2:16pm
Monkberrymoon (mail):
I'll take the more obvious third way: Anyone who is a recipient of a state-granted monopoly shouldn't be able to pick and choose how they deliver those services based on whim. If the industry is free of gov't interference, then fine, let 'em do what they want. But, to me, the barriers-to-entry point decides the whole thing -- you can't hide behind an undeserved societal grant of an economic advantage and then choose to deny (legal) services to members of that society.
9.29.2006 2:19pm
Houston Lawyer:
Can they refuse to carry those carrying alcohol if they have an add for a "gentlemen's club" on the back of their cab?

Can I bring my pot-bellied pig in the cab? What about my dog, since Muslims have issues with dogs as well?
9.29.2006 2:20pm
Allen (mail):
Most airports I go to have "cab lines" enforced by the airport authority. In other words, the customer is required to take the first cab in line. Does MSP allow customers to choose which cab driver will take them to their destinations? If not, it seems wrong for the cab drivers to be able to choose which customers they will take while not offering the customers the same freedom of choice.

Whether I had alcohol or not, I would prefer a cab driver who does not discriminate on the basis of alcohol possession. Am I allowed to choose? I suppose I am, if I simply lie and say I am carrying alcohol, but am I allowed to simultaneously be honest and be discriminatory, as the cab drivers apparently are? I suspect the answer is "no," although I could be wrong.
9.29.2006 2:23pm
Yankev (mail):

would allow some skinhead driver to leave a passenger wearing a yarmulke or a star-of-David necklace on the curb.)


Having been glared at when I got into a Muslim driver's cab in San Diego and having been lectured by a West Indian driver in NYC at the top of his lungs about the evil racist nature of all Jews, I can assure you that skinheads are not the only drivers who would do so.
9.29.2006 2:23pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Aren't those cab drivers holders of limited numbers of licenses issued by the state?

If so, there is only one rational solution: Drivers who refuse to carry passengers based on their personal religious beliefs lose their licenses.
9.29.2006 2:24pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You're missing the real issue here, people. 75% of cab drivers at a public airport are Somali? That seems like prima facie evidence of racial discrimination to me!
9.29.2006 2:25pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
First off, ditto Cheburashka, assuming his assumption is correct. If, however, the taxi-cab market is at least somewhat competitive, then I have no problem with this. The market has been known to eradicate inefficient prejudice.
9.29.2006 2:27pm
JRL:
Are the number of pharmacists/pharmacies limited, or do they just need licenses?
9.29.2006 2:28pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
"The observant drivers object only to transporting openly displayed alcohol, said Ali Culed, a Somali Muslim who's been driving an airport cab for eight years. They won't search passengers or quiz them about what's in their bags."

So we could call this approach something like "Don't ask/Don't tell"? Hmm....

Me, I'm investing in opening a stand at the airport, selling opaque six-pack-sized shopping bags.

Seriously, while I can see an objection to open, or openable, containers in the passenger compartment (is there an exemption to the "open container" law, if Minnesota law has one, for cabs?) once passenger says "It's a sealed container, and I won't open it, or I'll store it in the trunk", the drivers seem to be engaging in a violation of whatever the state anti-discrimination Minn. equivalent of the Unruh Act is. . . .

Richard Gould-Saltman
9.29.2006 2:28pm
NYU 2L:
Another relevant qualification--does Minneapolis have a system like New York's, where there are a limited number of highly valued taxi licenses? In a market that has such a strict barrier to entry, regulation is more justified to protect the public as competition can't solve the problem.
9.29.2006 2:28pm
AK (mail):
Monkberrymoon:

Barriers to entry, even state-imposed ones, do not a monopoly make. There are barriers to entry in virtually every enterprise known to man. That doesn't mean that there's a monopoly in each of those markets. You might think this is a minor technical nitpick, but it's not. You explicitly said that "the barriers-to-entry point decides the whole thing." If the presences of barriers to entry determines that the government can hyper-regulate an industry as if it were a government-mandated monopoly, then God help us all.

I don't think the mere act of licensing or regulating something thereby grants the government the power to regulate that enterprise further. There are doubtless barriers to entry in the taxicab market. I'm sure cabbies need special licenses and must comply with other regulations. But as long as there's no state-imposed monopoly (like the ludicrous medallion system in New York), anyone can become a driver for hire. If the Muslim cabbies don't want to carry certain passengers, non-Muslim cabbies can make a killing.

Oh, and because several people asked, I'm in favor of anyone being allowed to refuse service in whole or in part to anyone for any reason, provided there is no monopoly in place. And by "monopoly" I mean a real monopoly, not a licensing exam.
9.29.2006 2:34pm
eddie (mail):
The color-coding sounds like a good solution -- it lets cab drivers choose how to run their businesses, and it lets the airport provide its customers with the service they want.

I think they've already got a pretty efficient and elegant solution in place. "Sorry, take another cab." "Like the one right behind you, with the driver who is happy and eager to get a customer now instead of waiting for the next customer to come along? Okay, thanks, I'll do that."

What's wrong with that system? Oh, right... the number of cabs is arbitrarily limited by a state-controlled monopoly system. Well, there's an easy fix for that problem too.
9.29.2006 2:35pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
It will be interesting to see what happens when the devoutly Muslim Somali taxi drivers start refusing service to hand-holding gay couples (as they probably will someday). If they were Evangelical Christians, there would be no end to the official scolding and frowning.

In the same vein, it will be especially interesting to see how society treats polygamous Muslim men who marry young teenage girls. As Mark Steyn once observed, if polygamy means stump-toothed white guys marrying adolescent white girls, then it's wrong; if it means Muslim men importing child brides, then it's no problem.

Mutual accomodation is nice. Double standards are not.
9.29.2006 2:37pm
Bjartur:
FYI, the number of cabs in Minneapolis is kept unreasonably low, but IJ Minnesota is working on that:

http://www.startribune.com/562/story/687995.html
9.29.2006 2:44pm
Mark Seecof (mail):
Oh, and the "colored lights" atop the cabs? That is certainly bad public policy. It would stigmatize passengers who ride in the minority cabs and expose them to the obloquy and contempt of alcohol-haters such as certain Somali Muslims. Muggers would preferably rob passengers descending from minority taxicabs in hopes of obtaining costly liquors. The "colored light" scheme would likely expose minority (alcohol-tolerant) taxicab drivers to ostracism and sabotage by a cartel of alcohol-hating cabdrivers (since the minority cabdrivers would get more fares on average. A 3-to-1 majority of less-competitive drivers is likely to react as a cartel).

I can hardly think of a stupider response to this problem than marking 75% of the cabs "excludes passengers with alcohol" and the other 25% "carries passengers with alcohol."

And for you concrete thinkers, suppose the airport wanted to label some cabs "DRIVER IS A ARROGANT MUSLIM" and the rest "DRIVER IS A TOLERANT FELLOW." Would that be okay?
9.29.2006 2:55pm
Nathan Jones (mail):
... only if we color code pharmacies...
9.29.2006 3:18pm
Steven Vickers:
It would stigmatize passengers who ride in the minority cabs and expose them to the obloquy and contempt of alcohol-haters such as certain Somali Muslims.

I doubt that's true, as if the Somali Muslims were that "alcohol-hating," they would be pushing for a ban on alcohol in cabs. It doesn't seem that they particularly care, as long as it's not in their cab.

What virtually all rational people would think of a person in such a cab is that they took the first cab available. Which makes sense--I'm a firm believer in beer drinking, but it costs all of 10 seconds to stuff my alcohol into a bag, so I'd be perfectly willing to ride in a "non-alcohol" cab it it were the first in line. Likewise, I would likely think that someone in a "non-alcohol" cab simply chose the first available cab.

And the comparison some have made to ambulances and pharmacies strikes me as hyperbolic. Those are situations (particularly the former) where there are few alternatives, and the stakes are high. But an airport cab line? There are many, many options, and if it takes an extra five minutes to find a non-alcohol cab, that's a much, much smaller price.
9.29.2006 3:18pm
SeaLawyer:
If you have ever seen these cab drivers on the road you would think that they were drunk. I am just glad I don't have to take the crosstown to work anymore.
9.29.2006 3:18pm
SeaLawyer:

I doubt that's true, as if the Somali Muslims were that "alcohol-hating," they would be pushing for a ban on alcohol in cabs. It doesn't seem that they particularly care, as long as it's not in their cab.


If you knew the Somali community here, you would know that is coming next.

but it costs all of 10 seconds to stuff my alcohol into a bag, so I'd be perfectly willing to ride in a "non-alcohol" cab it it were the first in line. Likewise, I would likely think that someone in a "non-alcohol" cab simply chose the first available cab.


Go read the article the woman in the story had the wine in her suitcase.
9.29.2006 3:26pm
faeroe:
Having had a client who was a cab driver at the airport in a past life, I can speak with a little authority on the licensing requirements.

First, the Metropolitan Airports Commission is a municipality under Minnesota law. It has enacted an ordinance that controls the taxi drivers who can work there. Only drivers licensed by the MAC can pick up fares at the airport. There are a limited number of licenses to be had, but there is no ability by the license holder to transfer to another person (the license can be put into a new car - the ordinance requires that the vehicles used be no older than five years). In the past there was a reputation of a great deal of corruption surround the issuance of the licenses, but I do not know if that is ongoing. There has also been a fair amount of chicanery surrounding the (non)transfer of the licenses: purported lease deals and sub rosa sales.

The bottom line is that it is a highly regulated service that is authorized at the sole discretion of the municipality. It requires that the drivers to have had a certain amount of standardized training. It is certainly within the ability of the MAC to require that the hacks not discriminate against riders based on any reasonable grounds the authority might choose. I do not beleive there was anything beyond the standard protected-class language in the ordinance when I read it about seven years ago.
9.29.2006 3:28pm
SeaLawyer:

And the comparison some have made to ambulances and pharmacies strikes me as hyperbolic. Those are situations (particularly the former) where there are few alternatives, and the stakes are high. But an airport cab line? There are many, many options, and if it takes an extra five minutes to find a non-alcohol cab, that's a much, much smaller price.


No one is asking the cab driver to sell, serve, consume, or even touch the alcohol, so this definitely worse.
Of course don't bring a date to a Somali restaurant as she will not be allowed to sit with you.
9.29.2006 3:28pm
Steven Vickers:
<i>If you knew the Somali community here, you would know that is coming next.</i>

Then you deal with that when it occurs. It's illogical to reject policies based on what proponents might later propose.

<i>Go read the article the woman in the story had the wine in her suitcase.</i>

I did read it. She had to wait for a few cabs, and was directed to one that would carry her by the dispatcher. The horror.

<i>No one is asking the cab driver to sell, serve, consume, or even touch the alcohol, so this definitely worse.</i>

In one case, the potential result is death. In another, the potential result is a slight wait. Which of these do you think is worse?

<i>Of course don't bring a date to a Somali restaurant as she will not be allowed to sit with you.</i>

I'm not sure how universally true this is (I'll ask my more restaurant-experienced colleagues in the DC area, where I live), but if this is the case, I'd simply not bring a date to a Somali restaurant. Problem solved. Frankly, this is a terrible fact for someone on your side of the debate to use, as restaurants are not nearly as regulated as cabs, and appears to be a situation where it's merely imposing personal preferences on the market because you find them better.
9.29.2006 3:42pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It does sound like these cab drivers are heavily regulated and entry is very limited. As I result, I would suggest that we really are getting into state actors.

I think a better solution would be to require the drivers to carry the passengers, regardless. They have the choice of their license or their religion. We are really into what appears to me to be common carriage, due to the sharply limited numbers of licenses issued.

One solution might be to allow them to vote on whether to remove the license caps and still be able to exclude people with alcohol (or pigs or dogs or holding the hands of someone of the same sex), or to keep the license caps and have to serve those customers.
9.29.2006 3:46pm
JRL:

And the comparison some have made to ambulances and pharmacies strikes me as hyperbolic. Those are situations (particularly the former) where there are few alternatives, and the stakes are high.



Isn't just the opposite of this? There are potentially limitless ambulances and pharmacies/pharmacists, but this is not so for cabs.
9.29.2006 3:47pm
SeaLawyer:

I'm not sure how universally true this is (I'll ask my more restaurant-experienced colleagues in the DC area, where I live),


Well I am talking about where I live and that is Minneapolis.

As far as the pharmacies I thought you where referring to the morning after pill. As was mentioned ealier.
9.29.2006 3:47pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Convenient for passengers who want to avoid Muslim cab drivers.
9.29.2006 3:53pm
Steven Vickers:
Isn't just the opposite of this? There are potentially limitless ambulances and pharmacies/pharmacists, but this is not so for cabs.

When you're bleeding, you may not want to wait for the tenth ambulance.

As far as the pharmacies I thought you where referring to the morning after pill. As was mentioned ealier.

I said: "And the comparison some have made to ambulances and pharmacies strikes me as hyperbolic. Those are situations (particularly the former) where there are few alternatives, and the stakes are high." I actually agree with you somewhat on the morning after pill. Sorry if I caused any confusion on that point.
9.29.2006 3:55pm
KeithK (mail):

Isn't just the opposite of this? There are potentially limitless ambulances and pharmacies/pharmacists, but this is not so for cabs.

If you have to wait an extra five minutes for a cab that will carry you the net effect is that you've lost five minutes. Big deal. If you have to wait five minutes for another ambulance you may be dead. Obviously a big difference.
9.29.2006 4:08pm
John Steele (mail):
I've already argued for the public's rights over the licensed professional's rights, both in general and in this issue.

I want to respond to some comments suggesting that cabs aren't that big a deal. Actually, they are. They're a hugely important source of publicly available mobility in a complicated world that demands our presence at a variety of locations. They're also quite important to the lower socio-economic classes who may lack a car or lack a second family car. "You can always get another cab" just doesn't reflect the reality of how cabs are used. The stakes frequently are quite high. Ask any taxi driver about their recurring fares. The elderly use them to get to medical care. People who fear for thier safety use cabs. People in the business world hurrying to meet deadlines need them.

Also, consider the African-Americans who sometimes complain that cabs won't pick them up in urban settings. Leaving aside the deplorable invidious discrimination, who can really say to them "hey, you don't particularly need a cab ride anyway"?

Access to cabs is not a trivial issue.
9.29.2006 4:17pm
JRL:

"When you're bleeding, you may not want to wait for the tenth ambulance."



Yes, but in that case it is not the government that is causing the wait by endorsing one particular religious view over another.
9.29.2006 4:23pm
Steven Vickers:
John Steele-

Almost none of those points apply to airport taxis. Only one of them does--the businessman in a hurry--and I'll assure you, if I am late for a meeting because I stopped off to buy alcohol at an airport, I suspect my managers would be more upset with me than with the Muslim cab driver. Again, we should evaluate public policies on what they actually are, not by using bad analogies or misunderstanding the relevant market.

I actually think you may be right on the general citywide taxi market, precisely because the costs are substantially higher, but it's troublesome to apply the same logic in a radically different setting.
9.29.2006 4:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I wonder what the correlation would be between people who think pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to sell birth control, and people who don't think cab drivers should be allowed to refuse service to people carrying alcohol.


A better question, particularly for the Twin Cities, might be what is the correlation between people who think that the same government which forbids bars and restaurants from allowing their patrons to smoke in a designated smoking section should be forcing cab drivers to transport alcohol against their religious beliefs.
9.29.2006 4:23pm
JRL:
or rather government action
9.29.2006 4:23pm
Mongoose388:
Most importantly, what does Danny Glover think of this? And have any of theses Somali taxi drivefs ever refused to tramsport him for being black?
9.29.2006 4:24pm
Steve:
Access to cabs is not a trivial issue.

Actually, it's fairly trivial in the context of an airport pickup, where there are dozens of cabs waiting in line. There's no indication that anyone is being stranded at the airport as a result of taxi drivers' religious practices.

The proposed accomodation is strictly an arrangement between the airport commission and the taxi drivers' association. So I don't believe there would be any impact on the world outside the airport, where taxis are sometimes more difficult to find.
9.29.2006 4:26pm
Steven Vickers:
Yes, but in that case it is not the government that is causing the wait by endorsing one particular religious view over another.

I don't think it's actually endorsing a religious view, though, it's giving suppliers of a service a choice. Saying that someone else can discriminate isn't an endorsement, even if it's incorrect. I also don't really see how that's relevant when talking about whether such a wait is worse than the taxi wait.
9.29.2006 4:26pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I want to respond to some comments suggesting that cabs aren't that big a deal. Actually, they are. They're a hugely important source of publicly available mobility in a complicated world that demands our presence at a variety of locations. They're also quite important to the lower socio-economic classes who may lack a car or lack a second family car.


That probably why in the Twin Cities we have both a bus system and a LRT which run to the airport every fifteen minutes and transport passengers at government-subsidized rates.
9.29.2006 4:28pm
Fran (mail) (www):
Could a devout atheist refuse to take:

...someone wearing a yarmulke?

...someone wearing a cross?

Could a devout racist refuse to take:

...a black?

...anyone not white?

Religious beliefs are given great standing in our society. I think we have freedom of religion. But at what point does your freedom to practice your religion unfairly interfere with anothers freedom to be free from your religion?

One of the strengths our our society has been our ability to look beyond what divides us, (with a great many mistakes along the way).

There may be many instances where we allow personal choices to interfere with someone elses choises, but surely, this isn't one of them.
9.29.2006 4:29pm
zak822 (mail):
The number of posts that express an appreciation for the right to discriminate in the provision of public services has surprised me. This is not just about cabs. And frankly, Minneapolis should be ashamed. The public is the public; cabbies and pharmacists do not have the legal right to refuse to serve members of the public.

The arguments being made in support of this discrimination remind me greatly of the arguments made in favor of racial and gender segregation.
9.29.2006 4:32pm
Byna (mail):
You have a right to work. You do not have a right to a particular job.

Jobs that might cause Muslims problems in the US:
Butcher, veterinarian, waiter, banker, 7-11 clerk, pharmacist.

I'm sure that there are many others. If you refuse to perform the duties of your job (i.e. selling Playboy to the customers) then your employer can fire you. In this taxi case the barriers and limits are so great that the government is acting as the employer on behalf of the people.

If it is legal to discriminate against passengers with alcohol then it surely must be legal for passengers to discriminate against taxi drivers that discriminate.
9.29.2006 4:34pm
zak822 (mail):
And, why does a cabby or anyone else get to impose their religious beliefs on me or any other member of the public? What's next, "I'm a deli clerk but I won't slice the baked ham"?

If your faith has provisions that prevent you from fulfilling the requirements of the job, get a different job. Is there any principle in the law that dictates otherwise?

Sorry for the double posting.
9.29.2006 4:37pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
If a substantial fraction of the cab drivers in an area refuse to carry passengers carrying alcohol, isn't this likely to increase the risk of people driving under the influence because they don't want to be stranded with no way to get home?
9.29.2006 4:41pm
Fran (mail) (www):
A big 'hear, hear' for zak822.

"If your faith has provisions that prevent you from fulfilling the requirements of the job, get a different job. Is there any principle in the law that dictates otherwise? "
9.29.2006 4:46pm
John Steele (mail):
In repsonse to my latest comment, a few have claimed that access to taxis is a trivial issue at the airport.

I disagree with that. But, regardless, the notion that we should permit common carriers to discriminate but only at the airport loses sight of the practial realities of regulating cabs.
9.29.2006 4:47pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
If a substantial fraction of the cab drivers in an area refuse to carry passengers carrying alcohol, isn't this likely to increase the risk of people driving under the influence because they don't want to be stranded with no way to get home?


Sounds to me like a perfect market opportunity. We can have (a) cabs that don't allow inebriated passengers or passengers who carry alcohol and (b) cabs that reek of urine and vomit. I'll opt for "a" and those who would otherwise have the government force their beliefs on cab drivers can ride in "b." Everybody wins!
9.29.2006 4:48pm
chrismn (mail):
There is a simple solution here. The queue is regulated by the airport commission. When he gets to the front of the queue, any taxi driver should be free to refuse any fare he wishes for whatever reason, but if he refuses it, he goes to the back of the line. Another way to put this is what right is it that taxi drivers are queueing up for? If you get to refuse passengers, it means that you are queueing up for the right of first refusal to any passengers that show up until you leave. If you have to go to the back of the line if you refuse, then the queue is over the right of first refusal to one passenger only. The latter seems to make much more sense.
9.29.2006 4:57pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
And, why does a cabby or anyone else get to impose their religious beliefs on me or any other member of the public?


Except of course they're doing no such thing. The only people seeking to "impose their [] beliefs" on others are those who are calling for the government to force cabbies to pick up a passenger they don't want to. Right now the situation is pretty much voluntary* in that (a) any cabbie can refuse to pick up any passenger s/he doesn't want to pick up and (b) any passenger can refuse to do business with any cabbie.

Don't want to ride with a devout Muslim who will insist that you not bring alcohol into his cab? You don't have to but neither do you have the right to have the government force him to change his beliefs to accommodate your wishes.

* With the possible exception of the artificial limit placed on the number of cabs by the licensing restrictions although it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
9.29.2006 5:03pm
Steven Vickers:
I disagree with that. But, regardless, the notion that we should permit common carriers to discriminate but only at the airport loses sight of the practial realities of regulating cabs.

Why? Don't most airports have a separate regulatory agency from the city? I'm almost certain that the logistical difficulty of separating airport cabs and citywide cabs is essentially non-existant, though I could be persuaded otherwise if it's often the case that the costs differ.

If it is legal to discriminate against passengers with alcohol then it surely must be legal for passengers to discriminate against taxi drivers that discriminate.

Absolutely correct! If you don't want to be a customer for a cab that doesn't allow carrying alcohol, more power to you.

It's also striking to me how many posters won't actually address the cost benefit question of the policy--by far the most common arguments are slippery slope and analogy, ranging from the merely off-base (citywide taxis) to the truly ludicrous (ambulances)

I'm also surprised by how casually people dismiss the possible alienation of up to 75% of a workforce. Comments like "What's next, 'I'm a deli clerk but I won't slice the baked ham'?" strike me as absurd--if a majority of the population found slicing ham to be a sin, then, yes, we would have deli clerks who wouldn't slice ham, and think very little of it. Now of course this analogy is imperfect, because at some price we will have more non-Muslims willing to drive cabs, but decreasing supply surely increases price...
9.29.2006 5:07pm
Brian E:
With the possible exception of the artificial limit placed on the number of cabs by the licensing restrictions although it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Unless I'm misreading most of the comments here, that seems to be the issue. I personally would not have any issue with cab drivers refusing to serve passengers carrying alcohol if the number of cabs was not strictly limited by the government.

However, since it is strictly limited, we could have a situation in which 100% of the cab drivers refuse to carry alcohol-carrying passengers, and individuals who would like to drive a cab that serves those passengers would be refused medallions by the city due to the limit.

If a cartel of collaborating cabbies can obtain a government-enforced monopoly on taxi service from the airport by obtaining all of the medallions, then that monopoly must certainly conform to common carrier caveats.

From the perspective of sheer amusement, I'd like to put a priest carrying sacremental wine at the airport.
9.29.2006 5:15pm
Joshua:
Say the MAC tries to force the cab drivers to transport people with alcohol. The first thing the cab drivers are likely to do is drag the MAC into a nasty and expensive court battle that will mean bad PR for the MAC and cost taxpayer dollars to defend even if they win. But that's not the half of it. Even if the MAC does win, and the Muslim cabbies quit or are fired, who will replace them? Are there enough non-teetotalers in the Twin Cities area with the requisite skills and background to be a cab driver who are interested in that career, with all its attendant risks, responsibilities, regulations and other burdens on one's lifestyle? Or is cab driving one of those "jobs Americans won't do" of which President Bush once spoke?

I don't have the answer to that, but judging by the MAC's apparent willingness to compromise on this matter, they seem to believe that the cabbies have them over a barrel, either because the MAC doesn't want a lawsuit or because they sense the choice will ultimately come down to alcohol-banning cabbies or no cabbies at all.
9.29.2006 5:22pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As a libertarian, I think any person should be able to refuse to provide any service to anybody for any reason, including race, religion, or the carrying of alcohol, barring a contractual agreement not to do so. (Of course, I also think that the government has no business restricting entry into the taxi market.)

If your faith has provisions that prevent you from fulfilling the requirements of the job, get a different job. Is there any principle in the law that dictates otherwise?
That rather begs the question of what "the requirements of the job" are.
9.29.2006 5:25pm
Steve:
But, regardless, the notion that we should permit common carriers to discriminate but only at the airport loses sight of the practial realities of regulating cabs.

Not really. The regulatory authority here only has jurisdiction over the airport. Whatever agreement they might strike has no impact outside the airport.

I can try to sum up the views of people on my side of the argument thus: If 5% of airline passengers want to take alcohol in a cab, and 5% of cab drivers don't want to transport anyone with alcohol, is it really so terrible to work out a system that keeps the two groups from clashing, if the end result is that everyone gets to their destination just the same?

In our multiethnic, pluralistic society, there are some sets of beliefs that can never be reconciled: for example, your wish to only live around white people and black people's wish to live wherever they please. In that scenario, someone's freedom is going to get infringed. But where it's possible to accomodate both sides of an issue without any real harm to anyone, shouldn't we try?
9.29.2006 5:27pm
JRL:

In our multiethnic, pluralistic society, there are some sets of beliefs that can never be reconciled: for example, your wish to only live around white people and black people's wish to live wherever they please. In that scenario, someone's freedom is going to get infringed. But where it's possible to accomodate both sides of an issue without any real harm to anyone, shouldn't we try?



So you're saying it would real harm for blacks to live side-by-side with whites?
9.29.2006 5:42pm
Steve:
So you're saying it would real harm for blacks to live side-by-side with whites?

From the standpoint of whites who don't want blacks in their neighborhood, of course they would see it that way.
9.29.2006 5:44pm
ras (mail):
AS a layman, it seems that the issue is not so much w/the drivers as w/the licensing body:

The cab drivers have the right to carry whomever they want to and to refuse the rest, just as the passengers have the right to get into any cab that'll take 'em or to refuse any cab that they don't wanna get into.

But the licensing body has an obligation to either:

1. give priority to those drivers who will impose the least restrictions on the community, given that cabs are so important that they require licensing in the first place; or

2. give licenses to anyone who can drive, with no restrictions on where within the body's jurisdiction they can operate.

What the body cannot do, since it represents the public at large, is to artifically restrict supply for a segment of the population: today it's those carrying alcohol, tomorrow it could be some other group such as women or Jews or the disabled etc.

If the cab drivers were refusing to, for example, take any woman not wearing a burqa, would a solution following the same principles as the current one still apply? If not, then this one is not really a principled solution, is it?
9.29.2006 6:00pm
Steve:
If the cab drivers were refusing to, for example, take any woman not wearing a burqa, would a solution following the same principles as the current one still apply?

Not really. The typical woman, Jew, or whatever would probably be offended at the idea of not being able to get into whatever cab they like. But the typical person carrying alcohol really wouldn't care, as long as it doesn't make it harder for them to get a cab. It's not an invidious classification.
9.29.2006 6:03pm
ras (mail):
Steve,

It does make it harder for them to get a cab, and violates a principle in doing so. Your arg seems to be that it's only a small inconvenience (like drinking from a separate water fountain?) and since the inconvenience is small they should not complain.

But the water fountain example is more odious, right? If it occurs in a licensed restaurant, for ex, it says "hey, we think you're dirty and lesser than us, too.

But that's exactly what the Quran says about infidels, and what the cab drivers are saying thru their actions much as the restaurant owner said with the separate drinking fountains" "You're too dirty for me!"

And this is just one issue that we're talking about: once you start allowing exceptions, there *will* be more, and not just with Muslim cab drivers, either (notwithstanding that I'd expect a disproportionate number from that group given their beliefs). Wanna start a pool on when the next condition/exception will be demanded by someone?
9.29.2006 6:14pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
What if the cabbies were refusing to pick up people carrying alcohol not because of religous reasons, but because they tended to be worse tippers, stink up the cab, or rob cabbies more often? Would they be within their rights to refuse the fare then? What if a Mormon hotel proprietor refused to let smokers book rooms due to a religous prohibition on the use of nicotine, and not because customers preferred un-funky rooms?
9.29.2006 6:15pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Wanna start a pool on when the next condition/exception will be demanded by someone?
Next, Jehovah's Witnesses will insist on not standing for the pledge of allegiance! And Quakers will refuse to take oaths in court!
9.29.2006 6:17pm
Fran (mail) (www):
Eugene wrote:

"The airports commission has struggled with the issue for several years. Alcohol is a serious concern for devout Muslims, said Hassan Mohamud, an imam and vice president of the society. The Qur'an, Islam's holy book, strictly forbids buying, selling, drinking or carrying alcohol."

Absolving devout Muslims from carrying alcohol seems to open the door for many other such 'permissions'.

If a devout Muslim really believes that women should not go anywhere, unless escorted, why can't they enforce their beliefs?

What about head scarves? A devout Muslim is riding Amtrak and objects that alcohol is being served, women are unescorted and they're not wearing a burka? Why is this different than any common carrier situation?
9.29.2006 6:17pm
ras (mail):
DRWN,

As I said above, it comes down to the licensing body, really.

They either have to give priority (all else being equal, such as equally safe drivers etc) to those drivers who will service the most passengers, or they have to not restrict the supply of licenses at all. Same applies to the hotel owners etc, tho perhaps not as much in their case cuz...

... cuz in the case of the cabbies, licenses tend to be restricted because of the traffic jams and practicalities, moreso than licensing a hotel, a restaurant or a regular driver, where there's usually room for one more without difficulty.

So the avoidance of restrictions on the public should be of greater concern, I would think, in cases like cabs or, say, a park concessionaire, where unlimited licensing is probably more difficult.
9.29.2006 6:25pm
Steven Vickers:
What about head scarves? A devout Muslim is riding Amtrak and objects that alcohol is being served, women are unescorted and they're not wearing a burka? Why is this different than any common carrier situation?

Well, the Amtrak scenario isn't even close to on point, because there a customer is trying to force a supplier to provide service in a certain way, where the case at hand is whether a supplier should be forced to carry people with alcohol. There is an enormous difference between 1) forcing businesses to do something and 2) allowing businesses to do something. To be relevant, the Amtrak situation would have to be something like mandating bar cars.

As to the scarves and burkas, they impose a much greater cost on a person than does packing away alcohol or waiting for the next cab.
9.29.2006 6:27pm
Fran (mail) (www):
Steven Vickers

I think it is quite reasonable to force certain businesses, (common carriers, restaurants, hotels...), as a condition of operating in this country, to accommodate all people, regardless of their religous beliefs. Reasonable restrictions , such as shoes, shirt, or burka would obviously be accepted.
9.29.2006 6:37pm
Steve:
Your arg seems to be that it's only a small inconvenience (like drinking from a separate water fountain?) and since the inconvenience is small they should not complain.

My argument is not that they should not complain. To reiterate, my argument is that as an empirical matter, people carrying alcohol empirically WILL not complain, as long as they can hop into another cab without a wait.

In the real world, I really don't think people will react by saying "wtf, that Muslim cab driver is saying I'm unclean! What a jerk!" I could be wrong, but that's the case I'm making. All the terrible objections raised by opponents of the accommodation in this thread seems to be purely theoretical.
9.29.2006 6:44pm
SG:
Can a cab company fire a Muslim driver who's refusing fares? Or does allowing a cab driver to refuse fares constiute a reasonable accomodation to religious practice?
9.29.2006 6:45pm
ras (mail):
Steve,

Just a small inconvenience or the thin edge of an unprincipled wedge? As I said above, would the same principles apply to separate drinking fountains, arguably an even smaller inconvenience?

If not, then it's not a princpled solution we're talking about here but an exception made for bureaucratic convenience.
9.29.2006 6:46pm
ras (mail):
Steve,

I'm afraid I repeated my last arg before you posted your most recent comment. Sorry for the redundancy, it was unintentional.

A q: if people complain, merely complain, would you then oppose this solution? Because the absence of complaint is the arg you are using, so would its presence flip your position, then?
9.29.2006 6:48pm
Steven Vickers:
Fran-

I don't necessarily agree in all situations (depends on how much of a cost it imposes on someone to be discriminated against), but that's not unreasonable. I just don't see what that argument has to do with a customer demanding that a business stop serving alcohol, as in your Amtrak example.

I'm just somewhat puzzled by your argument. The Muslim cab drivers aren't attempting to discriminate on religious grounds, which is the analogy you seem to be drawing, but rather based on specific actions (carrying the alcohol openly). Yes, that desire has a religious motivation, but one could say the same thing about many things society bans.

In fact, your argument seems to me to lead toward the opposite conclusion that you want: "I think it is quite reasonable to force certain businesses, (common carriers, restaurants, hotels...), as a condition of operating in this country, to accommodate all people, regardless of their religous beliefs." Well, then shouldn't cab companies accomodate devout Muslims by allowing them to select passengers who don't violate their religious laws? You might rebut that no one is forced to become a cab driver, and that's true, but forcing people to do something against their religion imposes a real cost on them and on society, who will pay higher fares as supply of drivers shrinks.
9.29.2006 6:49pm
Peter Wimsey:
I think that chrismn has the right answer - cabbies who don't want to carry certain individuals have to go to the back of the queue and the individual takes the next available taxi.
9.29.2006 6:58pm
ReaderY:
Rhe cabdrivers are entitled on this one. The distinction they are making is a valid one. Their religion prohibits them to transport alcohol, and obviously they would be transporting alcohol in the situation. Since I believe the Free Exercise Clause aught to mean what it says, public policy should accommodate religion. The public interest here is modest.

It sounds like there is a market for taxidrivers willing to transport people with containers of alcohol. Perhaps some people would be available to fill it.

Finally, most of the arguments against seem hyperbolic, more disagreement with the religion and its beliefs than sny legitimate inconvenience. The last thing someone helping a drunk person home should do is to let that person be carrrying an open container of alcohol. If all one needs to do is stash the bottle in ones luggage, I can think of no situation where one can seriously legitimately claim to "need" such a service, in anything like the way one needs an ambulance.
9.29.2006 7:00pm
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:
Boycott Minneapolis. That is the solution for those opposed to the imposition of Sharia law in America. Send a message that Americans will not stand by to being treated like second class citizens in their own country because of intolerant immigrants who want to impose their religion on the citizens of their new country of residence.
9.29.2006 7:25pm
Fran (mail) (www):
Steve

The argument I gave about Amtrak was as intended, extreme. I was suggesting that complaints about what someone in society will put up with, will, as niches are carved out, get more extreme.

In Iran women can be forced to wear the burka.

In Iraq women can be intimidated (forced) to wear the burka.

I also disagree with the provisions allowing pharmicists to refuse dispensing medications that they have a problem with.

I also disagree with doctors not performing surgery due to their beliefs, but due to the intimacy of that relationship, I would currently make an exception.

We are a secular society. We allow people to practice their religion up to the point that it interferes with people who do not want to practice their religion.

If Muslim cab drivers suddenly had a rash of accidents due to their mental anguish while carrying people who were carrying alcohol, I would suggest that we simply eliminate cabs...
problem solved.

9.29.2006 7:43pm
MarkM (mail):
I think a lot of these comments miss the point. Businesses are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, sexual orientation (depending on jurisdiction) or race but can discriminate on many other bases. A restaurant can reject patrons behaving inappropriately -- and what is inappropriate is largely up to the owner's discretion -- or being improperly dressed or any number of other reasons. Similarly, try walking into a shopping mall with an openly displayed bottle of alcohol and you will probably be stopped by security. Businesses are given broad rights to refuse service to people and I see no reason why cabs should be different. Especially when it is so easy to adapt by stuffing the alcohol in your luggage or in an opaque bag. In fact, this simply strikes me as the polite thing to do.

This situation is simply not equivalent to refusing service to a woman or a Jew as that would be a genuine violation of anti-discrimination laws.
9.29.2006 7:49pm
Steve:
We allow people to practice their religion up to the point that it interferes with people who do not want to practice their religion.

Yes. I don't think it interferes with these taxi passengers at all. The analogy to drinking at the Negro water fountain is particularly inapposite.

I also disagree with the provisions allowing pharmicists to refuse dispensing medications that they have a problem with.

I disagree with this, too. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that every pharmacy in the land was staffed by dozens of pharmacists, and that in every case when a pharmacist didn't feel like filling a prescription, they could easily hand the job off to the pharmacist standing next to them with absolutely no inconvenience to the customer. In that scenario, I wouldn't be troubled by the accommodation one bit.
9.29.2006 8:10pm
bud (mail):
I'd suspect, given the comments about the cultural issues, that this may not be a matter of religious devotion as much as one of peer pressure.

There's been a couple of comments that allude to what I see as "the" solution.

You don't need colored lights. You need two lines and large signs describing the difference between the lines.
Anyone carrying alcohol (or anyone who cares about the slippery slope to Sharia) can take a cab from one line, and those who aren't carrying and agree with the cabbies can take the other.

If the "boozers" line gets empty, it's time for more "medallions" for them. At that point, the religious cabies can decide between being devout and making a living, and cultural and peer pressure will have much less impact.
9.29.2006 8:35pm
Fran (mail) (www):
Silly me...

...my first question (beyond common carrier), should have been...


...should there be any limitation on the 'rights of ________ cab drivers'?


In my silly mind, to be a part of this country we all give up some 'rights'.

That, to me, is the concept. I don't see it in strict 'Libertarian terms', but I do see the concept of this country as being, when fairly enterperted, designed for 'the people', not for thoughts such as; religion, racism, sexism.....

Just because our founders couldn't imagine all the future potential A-holes in this world, doesn't mean that we're not bound by the concept.
9.29.2006 10:18pm
ras (mail):
Steve,

If your arg is based on the amount of "inconvenience," as you state, then the analogy to separate drinking fountains is on point, completely, as such fountains are - from the pt of view of convenience - no more an inconvenience than is packing up a bottle of liquor (which must be done quickly and surreptitiously before the cabbie even sees it, in the middle of a crowded airport cab-stand where the traveller usually has a gazillion other details on their mind)

If you arg based on something else, such as odiousness, please say so. Is the level of inconvenience the heart of your arg, such that a stronger inconvenience should not be accomodated? Or is it the level of odiousness, in your opinion, that makes the diff?
9.29.2006 10:56pm
neurodoc:
Before taking up hypotheticals, look at the facts in the instant case: the woman was returning home from a France and told the cab driver to take care with her suitcase because she had a couple of bottles of wine inside. She was refused service by that driver, then by 4 others before a 6th accepted her as a passenger. So, this was not someone who was going to drink in the cab or make any display of alcoholic beverages. And according to the article, henceforth "taxi starters at curbside will look for duty-free bags with bottles or other obvious signs of alcohol."

OK, now my hypothetical: should these drivers be allowed to refuse passengers they suspected were carrying pork products, if they feel that transporting pork products, though wrapped, would violate their religious principles?

When exactly is it acceptable for cab drivers to refuse service and when is it not acceptable? They should or should not be allowed to chose whom to transport on the basis of: race?, gender?, religion?, dress/appearance?, where the passenger is going? In which, if any, of these decisions should the driver's religion or other personal beliefs/preferences be taken into account? If those are to be taken into account, why shouldn't a driver be allowed to refuse as a passenger a woman he believed to be dressed immodestly or someone he took to be a homosexual? A driver who cannot claim religion as a basis for discriminatory choices should not be allowed those same choices?
9.30.2006 12:05am
Ken Arromdee:
What's next, "I'm a deli clerk but I won't slice the baked ham"?

There are delis who don't sell ham. Needless to say, such delis will also never slice any ham. Should we ban them on the grounds that "it's the job of a deli" to carry all common meats and everyone in the deli is "not doing their job"?

What if you define a cab driver's job as "driving cabs and repairing computers"? If a cab driver refuses to repair computers, is he then "refusing to do his job"? It's true that repairing computers is not as similar to driving cabs as driving passengers with alcohol is to driving passengers without, but it's still a completely arbitrary distinction, and a suitable definition of a "cabdriver's job" could include and exclude any activities whatsoever.
9.30.2006 1:47am
godfodder (mail):
This sort of behavior by cab drivers should be rejected on the simple principle that it is in no one's interest to further Balkanize our society. I don't know about anyone else, but I am getting increasingly distressed by the intolerance that is engendered by this kind of multiculturalism. Suddenly, it seems, every crackpot feels empowered to make self-righteous judgments upon their fellow citizens. What next? I refuse service to patrons that don't speak Farsi? Don't praise Allah? Don't do whatever the hell it is I deem necessary for them to be worthy of my services?

My point is only this: do we want to live in a society that is dominated by dogmas? What happened to tolerance? Without flexibility and a mature open-mindedness we are headed for conflict, tension and unhappiness. Maybe even violence. These are all steps in the wrong direction. Steps that I thought we had already transcended in America. Tribalism is very dangerous.

Not exactly a legal argument, but there you go.
9.30.2006 2:13am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Surely the cab drivers are unconstitutionally imposing their customers. Someone call the NAACP's lawyers and tell them there's a class-action suit in Minnesota just waiting for them.

Seriously, to answer the commenter above, of course it would be discrimination to fire them for refusing to take fares. They are not Christians. Therefore, anything they do is quite alright. And, no one has the guts to do anything about it out of fear of being branded anti-Muslim.

They all deserve to be canned, and an honest reading of Title VII would uphold it.
9.30.2006 2:19am
Fred the Fourth (mail):
In the taxi-queue situations I am familiar with, waiting passengers are required to take the cab at the head of the queue. Along the lines that chrismn proposed, we could suggest a complementary pair of rule changes: If the cabbies are to be permitted to refuse passengers for any reason, then passengers should be permitted to refuse to go with any driver for any reason.
Actually, I can't believe we're having this discussion. Would people be willing to stick to their positions if the passenger was not a woman with evil booze, but instead a hand-holding male couple? Say yes, and we can go from there.
9.30.2006 3:24am
Sameer Parekh (mail) (www):
Steve,
If its not inconvenient for a woman to put her wine in a bag, why is it then inconvenient for her to put her head in a bag?
9.30.2006 12:17pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
This situation is just an example of the problem of creeping statism. One regulation (licensing taxi-cab drivers) leads to others (re: carrying alcohol), just like government funded healthcare is used to justify helmet and seatbelt laws ("I shouldn't have to pay for his stupidity"). I'm sympathetic to these arguments for secondary regulation, but in the end, am left advocating a simpler solution...

Get rid of all taxi regulations, and let any driver pick up anyone or refuse to pick of anyone for any reason (odious or otherwise).

I'm sure someone would at the airport waiting to take me and my liter or brandy (it's cold in MN) to the hotel. If not, I guess I have to dump the brandy, take the bus, or walk.
9.30.2006 2:04pm
calmom:
When the line for alcohol-carrying passengers gets long, and the cabs aren't there to carry them because the cab drivers are 75% Somalis, will the city of Minneapolis be permitted to deny another Somali a license to pick up fares at the airport because customer demand is for taxi drivers who will carry alcohol? Will the city be able to say "Sorry, no more Somali cab drivers. We need only cab drivers who will carry alcohol. It's supply and demand." I doubt it. They'll be accused of discrimination.
9.30.2006 2:20pm
MarkM (mail):
Instead of comparing this situation to a series of implausible hypotheticals how about comparing it to something that actually does occur in the real world: unmarried couples being denied hotel rooms in conservative parts of the country. Here, the people doing the discriminating are usually Christians instead of Muslims but the principle is the same. This discrimination is perfectly legal in most places and is arguably a much larger inconvenience than the example given here.
9.30.2006 8:09pm
Fred (mail):
I am in agreement with the idea that if the taxi driver has the right to refuse to serve customers because they are carrying alcohol then I should have the right, to pick one of the cabs color coded to accept alcohol carrying passengers. I strongly suspect that if I were to say, "No I don't want that cab I want one that permits alcohol" and I didn't obviously have any booze on me that I would be denied that right.

Also one of the arguements the government of France made about banning the headscarves for the girls is that once scarves (scarfs?) were permitted the girls wouldn't really have a 'choice'. Instead there would be peer pressure and family pressure on girls who didn't want to wear the scarves to adopt them. Would something similar occur to a Muslim taxi driver who didn't care? Would he be pressured by his fellow cabbies to get the light? How violent would this pressure be?

I don't like the slippery slope arguements but I can see this being ripe for further refinements; no dogs, no Jews, no gays, no single women.
9.30.2006 9:24pm
Billy Hank (mail):
"A common carrier of passengers is one who undertakes for hire to carry all persons..." A taxi is a common carrier. If a person's behavior becomes disruptive, a driver would have recourse. The person's luggage, absent danger, should be carried without comment.

Those struggling to reach accomodation with the islamists because, "after all, it's such a little thing and their beliefs are so sincere" - please come and see me in about two years. If the scales haven't fallen from your eyes by then, I've got a Clue Bat for you.

Camel, tent. Tent, enjoy your camel.
10.1.2006 2:04am
ReaderY:


I can't help but think that there is a class issue here. I imagine most people on this forum think of of taxi-drivers in almost mechanical terms, as providing a meaningless service that may as well be provided by a machine. Would be saying the same thing about, to pick an arbitrary occupation, lawyers who prefer to take cases consistent with their religious beliefs, particularly if those beliefs are our own? Why are people in despised religions and occupations not given a right to live a life that brings them personal satisfaction?

Is personal fulfillment to be reserved only for what one does with pen and paper, or in bed?
10.1.2006 4:11am
Misc. Guest:
I also find myself a little shocked by the sheer amount of prejudice in this forum -- people who make their religion visible are perceived as forcing themselves on others. Isn't a contract a matter of mutual consent? How can not giving ones consent ever be considered force?
10.1.2006 4:13am
Barry P. (mail):
The Qur'an, Islam's holy book, strictly forbids buying, selling, drinking or carrying alcohol.

Boy, I hope nobody mentions this to thew folks running the Dubai Duty-Free.
10.1.2006 6:55am
Barry P. (mail):
The Qur'an, Islam's holy book, strictly forbids buying, selling, drinking or carrying alcohol.

By the way, this is not true. The Koran says "do not pray when you are drunk." It also says that alcohol has both benefits and costs to the user, and it is unwise to use it because the costs are greater than the benefits. That's a long way from prohibition.

All the serious prohibitions are contained in the Hadith, not the Koran.
10.1.2006 7:06am
John Robert (mail):
Over a period of thirty years starting in '75, ending in '02, I drove a taxi in Philadelphia, Buffalo and Niagara Falls for a total of 18 years. I had to laugh about someone's comment about tipping. I always found the drunks to be the biggest tippers. I only remember someone throwing up once, but it was only a little bit, I pulled over in time so he could open the door, and well you know the rest. The segment of the population that doesn't tip, at all, are the blacks. Of the five times I was robbed, four times it was by a black. It took my first two years to realize that it's best you avoid picking up blacks because you will most likely be beat for the fare, 'I have to go inside to get the money from my aunt'. Yea, right, like I said it took me two years to figure it out. If you people knuckle under, if you cave, it will be the camel's nose under the tent. Do a little research and check out what the Europeans have been experiencing for at least twenty years. A good book is one called 'Londonistan'. You're dealing with fifth century primitives. They have to come up to our speed, we should not be expected to dumb down. When we come out in public we have to all make the best of it while conducting 'business.' If the little Somalians can't handle it, fill the cabs with illegal Mexican drivers, they show up every day and don't give you attitude. All you Twin City residents have to man up and tell the immigrants that they moved to the great melting pot and they better start melting. They can take that sensitivity stuff and put it right back up where they pulled it out from.
10.1.2006 7:21am
stranger from a strange land far away (mail):
I'm somewhat puzzled by the fact that 75% of the taxi drivers at this airport are Somalis. Does, by chance, anybody know why this is the case? Just curious.
10.1.2006 12:07pm
John Robert (mail):
Taxis are a very good cover to gather intelligence and it is a cash flow business. The Somalis come from a country that has a segment of their population that got great delight dragging one of our dead Marines down the streets of Mogadishu. That's how far the population is skewed. They will not stop until you, by law, are on a prayer rug five times a day. I would not trust them as far as I could throw a taxi.
10.1.2006 12:43pm
R Gould-Saltman:
This post tweaked a memory for me, and I jumped over to another of my net favorites, ChowHound.com. I recalled (correctly, it turns out) a discussion, several years ago, of the significant number of Islamic RESTAURANTS operated by Somalis in the Twin Cities area, some number of which, at the time, gender-segregated their dining rooms.

So, a real-world, non-hypothetical extension of the question. Doc:

OK to sex-segregate a publically licensed restaurant? (I assume that there's some sort of licensing needed to run a restaurant, though in this instance, I assume that one of the favorite tools of California restaurant regulators, "Do what we want or we pull your liquor license!", would be of little use. . . .)?

OK to advertise that your restaurant is sex-segregated?


r gould-saltman
10.1.2006 1:34pm
Happy-lee (mail):
Another example of what happens when government licensing hits reality speed bump. Taxis are limited in number by government licensing. Like all niches carved out by our glorious leaders, some particular sub-group becomes dominant in this niche. In this town it appears that Somali's have taken over. I am sure that they discriminate against, say, wanna-be mexican drivers, in order to preserve their dominance in this field.
Would Somali's own the market, so to say, if there was no licensing? Probably not.
Now, as hinted at by Mr. Robert, the good people of St. Paul should be asking themselves why there are so many Somali's in St. Paul in the first place. And, perhaps, the good people of St. Paul should consider boycotting our intolerant Somali visitors. Refuse to ride with them. Put them out of business.
Alas, I don't think the West and its dwindling native populations are even capable of this token resistence anymore. Better to give up one's own rights than assert them in the face of disapproval by someone else. A mistake Somalis refuse to make.
10.1.2006 3:38pm
Happy-lee (mail):
To clarify: The dispute arises because of gov't restriction of entry to taxi-cabbing field of commerce. If there were no barriers to entry, and if each individual had a right to choose, then it would not matter whether any cab driver disciminates any more than it would matter if customer discriminated.
But when gov't outlaws some forms of discrimination and also restricts entry to fields of commerce, you can be sure social conflict will follow.
10.1.2006 4:10pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
This is a classic case of how libertarianism, carried to its logical extreme, gets you results you don't want.

Count me among the many who would exclude the Somali drivers from the airport.

In my county, there was a similar problem of refusing fares, only the issue was that drivers didn't want to take short trips.

The airport administration simply instituted a queue. Drivers took fares in turn, and if they refused to accept business, they were banned.

A friend of mine who owned a taxi company got tired of all the infighting and dropped out of the drivers' association that managed the queue system. He felt he had better, cleaner employees, and he signed contracts with the upscale hotels to provide exclusive service at their end.

He could take fares to the airport, but his drivers could not join the queue to pick up returns. However, he is allowed to pick up fares (not in the queue) at the airport if they specifically ask for him. Since he provides excellent service, the concierges at the hotels make sure he seldom has to deadhead back from the airport.

A further thought: the Somalis should be instructed that Americans don't behave that way. Perhaps they should not be allowed to become citizens, should they care to, if they don't get America any better than that.
10.1.2006 4:32pm
ho (mail):
if this is not the installation of sharia law in america, then what is it?
10.2.2006 3:09pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
It's not quite a law. I'd call it the installation of voluntary dhimmitude.

Some people can't wait for sharia to be imposed.
10.2.2006 8:05pm
John Robert (mail):
There is a mad muslim of American citizenship. He is a second generational, and has a 5 million dollar FBI bounty on his head. He has a considerable amount of nuclear bombing information in his 'head'. They've been trying to desperately find him for the past two years. The Islamofacists have been giving a lot of thought to knocking out the fresh water supply of the Infidel. You Twin City people sit on top of the Mississippi River and very close to the Western shores of the Great Lakes. A nuclear device set off close to either of their targets would devastate a lot of our water supply, look at a map.

Al Quada has put a lot of effort in recruiting in Africa. It would be easier for Africans to infiltrate into Africian descendency elements of this country. The raging hate of us originating from that segment of our citizenry is rampent. Their policy of 'no snitch' has set us up for infiltration by the Islamofacists.

The Islamofacists are feveriously gathering intelligence around the Mississippi River and the Western shores of the Great Lakes in order to find the best place to set off as many nuclear explosions as possible. The African/Somali Islamofacists will tell our black citizens that the bomb they're setting up will only kill white people. They (black Americans) will believe the Islamofacists. They will retire to their crib for the evening, convinced, that when they wake up the next morning, all of the white people will be dead.
10.2.2006 9:22pm
save_the _rustbelt (mail):
I'm wondering how Minneapolis and Columbus Ohio both filled with tens of thousands of Somalis over a decade.

Was this some intentional policy of the federal government to direct immigration flows, some plot, or just a bizarre coincidence.

And how does the cab business become 75% Somali?
10.2.2006 10:49pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
A tart woman who goes by the name Florida Cracker said, 'The airport authorities are working on a system of color-coding the lights on the cabs to make it easier to direct passengers to the appropriate vehicles. They haven't decided on the colors, but I think they should keep yellow in reserve as it would be a good choice for designating which cabbies will carry Jews.

I think she nailed it.
10.3.2006 12:58am
John Robert (mail):
I understand that my comments may come off as the rantings of some right wing bigot I couldn't have done 15 years in the Army and driven a taxi for 18 years and come away without appreciating the efforts of so many black people in our country. My worst case scenario about the Islamofacists infiltrating our black citizenry is a possibility because of feelings and impressions I have gathered over the years. My worst case scenario is the result of a number of dots that have been thrown out over the years and it's the picture I have created. I may be a total loon not even in the ballpark, but there's no doubt about it the Islamofacists would really devastate this country if they could act out my scenario. We in the United States under as severe a threat to our lives as the Israelis have been for as long as I've been alive. I'm a fourth generation Irish and third generation Polish. Israel and the United States are in the same boat. Harry Eagar, the previous writer, what exactly are you trying to say with your remarks about yellow lights and Jews?
10.3.2006 12:09pm
SG:
what exactly are you trying to say with your remarks about yellow lights and Jews?


I'm not Harry Eager, but I'll take a swing.

If Muslims cab drivers can decide on their own which potential passengers are sufficiently unclean as to be taken as passengers, then it is forseeable that a time will come when the Muslim drivers will refuse to take Jews as passengers too.

Since the "solution" to the current issue is to use colors to signal which cabs are willing to accept "unclean" passengers, perhaps with a little foresight in the color coding we can preempt the next controversy.

Of course, any similiarities between the color coding and historic events is strictly intentional.
10.3.2006 1:25pm
RA:
Wouldn't a good analogous substitute for alcohol in these thought experiments be...ahem...'adult' materials such as Playboy or Penthouse etc.? These are also legal - but regulated/sanctioned - products which may offend some religious people/females/feminists. Say a female (and/or Christian, or Muslim) cab driver refuses to pick up a fare holding a a stack of dirty magazines or videos (or watching an adult video on his handheld video player)...would we consider that an outrage? Or would we think it reasonable to ask that the fare keep his reading/viewing material hidden in a bag, out of sight? Of course, the fare that originally made the complaint HAD her wine out of sight - it was enough for the cabbie to KNOW she had the wine for him to refuse the fare. Presumably, a feminist or Christian might be equally offended by the knowledge of the presence of adult materials, even if not openly displayed. Ideally, each party (cabbie and fare) should be able to choose to contract with the other and let the market sort out the rest. In reality, compromises must sometimes be made to allow people to follow their conscience within reason while maintaining a semi-efficient and civil society. To me, keeping the items sealed/hidden should be enough of a compromise on the part of the fare (the 'not scaring the horses' method of getting along); if that's not enough of a compromise for the cabbie, then I agree with the commenters who say he should have to re-queue to try to find a fare more acceptable to him.

R
10.3.2006 7:58pm
John Robert (mail):
Hi, it's me again, the former cab driver. A taxi is a door to door bus. It is a means of public transportation. For every idiot you run into there were four that wern't. You're out there to make money. On average each person is in the cab for five minutes. Well, just call me a whore. But, if you have all this time and are so independently wealthy my question to these muslims, what's your agenda? Are you doing a mental remake of Robert Deniro's 'Taxi driver'. My advice to the little Somalis, get over yourselves, you're a taxi driver.
10.3.2006 10:19pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
SG expresses my views exactly. I am only surprised that anyone could have been puzzled by Ms. Cracker's statement.
10.4.2006 12:03am
John Robert (mail):
Harry, I think I understand where your sentiments lie, but I am still a little confused. I went all the way back up the list and I couldn't find an entry by a Ms Cracker. Do I need new glasses, or what?
10.4.2006 12:25am
John Robert (mail):
Harry, never mind, I went over the list again. I got it.
10.4.2006 12:31am
John Robert (mail):
When all else fails, read the instructions.
10.4.2006 12:33am