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“The Die Is Cast”: The NYPD Is Running An Unethical Experiment On New Yorkers; Let’s See What Happens

Scientific knowledge sometimes isn’t worth the ethical cost. For example, when it was first suspected that smoking causes lung cancer, a strong way to test the theory would have been to take a bunch of babies, expose half to lots of cigarette smoke for decades, and see what happened. That would have resulted in valuable evidence but obviously would have come at too high an ethical cost.

The New York Police Department is apparently not moved by these sorts of considerations. Enraged by the murder of two police officers, which has been ludicrously blamed on Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city’s finest have been conducting a work slowdown in protest. (The official line is that there is no coordinated slowdown, but the numbers don’t lie.)

It’s unclear what the motivation is behind the slowdown. There are three possibilities. First, the NYPD hopes that reduced policing will spark a crime spree, leading the public to turn on de Blasio. Second, the force is cutting back on ticketing to hit the city government in the wallet. Or third, it is a visceral lashing out at a city that isn’t providing the unquestioning, worshipful deference the cops apparently think they deserve at all times.

None of these are mutually exclusive, of course. I’d put some weight on all three, with the bulk of it on the last one. In any case, it’s a seriously unethical experiment on the citizens of New York. How much policing does the city really need? We’re about to get an answer, whether we like it or not.

The New York Times has compiled some interesting data on the reduction in policing activity. Just about every category of law enforcement is down from this time last year. Subway policing has basically stopped altogether. Arrests and citations for minor offenses (parking tickets and the like) have fallen by 90 percent or more. Arrests for violent crime are down by a small amount and appear to be returning to normal. But only detective bureau arrests have returned to their previous level, after a sharp reduction last week.

It’s probably fair to say that after a week of genuinely risking public safety, the NYPD is beginning to think better of its rash behavior and is scaling back the slowdown on violent crime.

Still, crime of any kind barely budged, either last week or this week. This suggests that the NYPD is not the only thing standing between New York and a blighted dystopian hellscape.

It casts more serious doubt on the “Broken Windows” theory, beloved of police departments and city governments in New York and across the nation. This idea holds that the way to reduce serious crime is to crack down on minor offenses. For two weeks running, minor offenses have gone essentially unpunished. The result? Bupkis.

This is not dispositive proof, of course. There are dozens of potential confounding factors, and the situation is changing daily. In particular, two weeks may just be too short a time for crime to take root. But when it comes to policing, experiments of any kind are rare. Undoubtedly, experts will be sifting the resulting data in the ensuing months, and whatever conclusions they draw should get wide attention.

Finally, there’s the issue of government funding. New York City took in $890 million from fines and tickets in fiscal year 2014, out of an overall budget of $70 billion. That’s a fairly small fraction of the total, especially compared with the brutally oppressive little municipalities surrounding St. Louis that run mostly on fines. However, it’s still true that unnecessary fines are perhaps the worst of all possible sources of government revenue, since they tend to disproportionately come from heavily policed poor and minority communities. If these tickets aren’t actually necessary for public safety, or are just a way to extract money from those least able to defend themselves, then New York ought to be finding that money elsewhere.

No ethicist could have signed off on this experiment. But the die is cast. We might as well glean what lessons we can.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, January 8, 2015

January 12, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, NYPD, Public Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Banana Republicans”: Appalling Content Of Policies Aside, When Not Torturing, They Lie, They Cheat, They Steal

If they can’t offer policies that a majority of voters will support without relentless brainwashing, they free up the billionaire beneficiaries of the policies they actually offer to help them buy elections.

If buying elections won’t give them a majority, they rig the districting so they can hold a minority of seats with a minority of votes.

If they can’t win even in gerrymandered districts, they try to keep Democrats from voting.

If they still lose, they resort to outright bribery.

In the latest case, they offered a Democratic state senator in Virginia – whose vote resulted in a tied chamber, giving the Lieutenant Governor the deciding vote – a cushy job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter if he’d resign, giving the GOP 20-19 majority.

Similar deals have been done recently in New York and Washington State, though in those cases the bribes were legislative leadership positions rather than external jobs.

I can confidently predict that a not a single elected Republican, and few if any Red-team pundits, will speak out against this grossly corrupt deal. If the state AG or the U.S. Attorney decide that it’s a prosecutable quid pro quo, Fox News and the National Review will howl about the “criminalization of policy differences.”

“Puckett” deserves to enter the language alongside “Quisling.”

The appalling content of its policies aside – the latest dirty trick is part of an effort to deny medical coverage to the working poor –  the modern Republican Party is a threat to the principles of republican government. Even when they’re not torturing, they lie, they cheat, and they steal.

Footnote And note the way the Washington Post uses the morally neutral “outmaneuver” to cover the payment and acceptance of a bribe. Did the Communists “outmaneuver” Jan Masaryk? Did the House of Guise “outmaneuver” the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day?

 

By: Mark Kleiman,  Professor of Public Policy at The University of California Los Angeles: Washington Monthly, Ten Miles Square; Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]; June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Electoral Process, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways”: FEC Investigation Into Michele Bachmann’s Election Campaign Now Focusing On Marcus

In 2011, Michele Bachmann claimed God spoke to her and told her to run for president. Apparently, the Lord works in mysterious ways. The Minnesota Congresswoman’s presidential campaign was a disaster on the inside even more than on the outside, as evidenced by all the ethics investigations she’s facing. Now Marcus Bachmann, the Congresswoman’s husband,  is the subject of a Federal Elections Commission investigation, according to the New York Times.

“The latest is a federal inquiry into whether an outside ‘super PAC’ improperly coordinated strategy with Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign staff, including her husband, in violation of election laws,” the Times reports

In a complaint to the F.E.C. in February, Peter Waldron, a Florida Republican operative hired to enlist evangelical Iowa pastors, described overhearing the president of the super PAC ask Brett O’Donnell, a senior campaign adviser, about radio and TV stations.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Waldron said Mr. O’Donnell had replied, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Election law prohibits substantial coordination, though not all contacts, between campaigns and super PACS, Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Waldron, who calls himself a whistle-blower, also disclosed an e-mail from Mr. Bachmann describing a phone call Mr. Bachmann made to a donor asking for $7,000. In the e-mail, Mr. Bachmann wrote that the donor had agreed to give the money through the super PAC. He concluded: “Praise the Lord!! Thank you Peter for your servant leadership.”

Mr. Ryan said the call appeared to violate a rule against campaign staff members raising more than $5,000 for a super PAC.

Regular readers of The New Civil Rights Movement are all too familiar with Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s evangelical outreach director who has ties a top advocate of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

Even the Times notes Waldron “has a controversial past,” and adds:

In 2006 he was jailed briefly in Uganda for possession of assault rifles, according to news reports. In the 1990s he led a Florida youth charity that received more than $600,000 in state and local grants before it collapsed amid questions about its effectiveness, according to The St. Petersburg Times, now The Tampa Bay Times.

But there’s so much more.

Waldron, who one year before the 2012 elections announced that the Holy Ghost had told him Michele Bachmann is the one for president, just published a new book, Bachmannistan: Behind The Lines, that claims Rep. Bachmann fired a staffer who had seven children, and another on the way, on Christmas eve.

Christian family values?

 

By: David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement, September 6, 2013

 

September 7, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Setting The Bar For Sleazoid Antics”: Florida Legislature Approves Ethics Reform — No Joke!

Promise not to laugh?

An ethics bill was passed last week in Tallahassee.

It’s no joke. The Florida Legislature unanimously approved a law designed to clean up its own sketchy act, and that of elected officials all over the state.

Gov. Rick Scott says he’s “reviewing” the bill. To veto it would be an act of profound cluelessness, but remember who we’re talking about.

The ethics legislation is significant because the concept of enforcing ethical behavior is so foreign to Florida politics. Decades of well-publicized misdeeds and flagrant conflicts of interest have failed to make a moral dent.

A few years ago, lawmakers went through the motions of establishing something called a Commission on Ethics. Most Floridians were unaware of its existence, for good reason. It was a total sham.

The panel could place monetary fines on elected officials for ethical violations, but it wasn’t empowered to collect those fines, which on paper have surpassed $1 million over the last 10 years. Nobody had to pay, so nobody took the commission seriously.

This year things changed. Senate president Don Gaetz announced that ethics reform was a top priority. His bill flew through the Senate on the very first day of the Legislative session.

The House sent it back, after some tweaking by Speaker Will Weatherford, and the new version was adopted without a dissenting vote by the full Legislature.

If Scott signs the bill into law, the Commission on Ethics will actually be able to collect the fines it imposes on wayward officeholders — even garnish their wages, if necessary.

Among other provisions, lawmakers would be banned from voting on any bills that might enhance their own personal finances. While in office, they wouldn’t be allowed to accept any government job. Once out of office, they’d be prohibited from lobbying state agencies for two years.

Such restrictions seem rather basic, even tame, until you consider that we’re basically starting from scratch. In Florida, the bar for sleazoid antics has been set very high.

The impetus for reform isn’t mysterious. As Republicans, Gaetz and Weatherford have seen their party stained by scandals.

Gaetz is from Okaloosa County, home to former House Speaker Ray Sansom. In 2010 Sansom resigned from the Legislature because of ethics complaints and an ongoing corruption probe.

Just two months ago, former GOP chairman Jim Greer pleaded guilty to five felonies, including grand theft and money laundering, in a case involving extravagant misuse of campaign funds and the party’s American Express cards.

Greer’s plea avoided an embarrassing trial that would have sent top Republican politicians to the witness stand. Having dodged that bullet, party leaders then had to watch their lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, abruptly resign after being linked to an Internet gambling cafe operation.

That company, Allied Veterans of the World, allegedly pocketed millions of dollars in charity funds that were supposed to be earmarked to help military veterans. It also donated gobs of money to the election campaigns of many Florida legislators, Republicans and Democrats.

Such headlines tend to produce a climate of fresh ethical awareness.

An interesting component of the new bill is the two-year ban on lobbying after leaving office. Traditionally, politicians who don’t want regular jobs become lobbyists when they return to private life.

House Speaker Weatherford’s predecessor, Dean Cannon, incorporated his own lobby firm a month before exiting the Legislature, and he hit the ground running. All perfectly legal, at the time.

Lots of other ex-House speakers and retired Senate bigshots are also lobbyists, schmoozing former colleagues on behalf of high-paying corporate and municipal clients. This revolving door ratifies the average voter’s cynical view of state government as a game fixed by insiders.

Although two years isn’t very long to wait between serving in public office and privately cashing in, any wait is better than what we’ve got now.

Ethics reform will be only as good as its enforcement, and history tells us not to have high hopes. This legislation is not without wiggle room and loopholes, including a provision for blind trusts that would allow officeholders to conceal the details of their wealth.

However, the bill at least puts some strong words on paper, and opens a pathway for prosecutors.

To help clarify the details and reduce the chances for future indictment, every elected official would be required to take annual ethics training.

You’re laughing again, right?

Sure, there’s something absurd about having to train a politician to be ethical. But, hey, if they can teach a cat to play the piano….

 

By: Carl Hiaason, The National Memo, April 30, 2013

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Goes Lyin’ Ryan”: Marathon Runner, Marathon Liar

The latest controversy involving Rep. Paul “Lyin’” Ryan concerns whether, in a recent interview, willfully misrepresented the time it took him to run a marathon, some 20-odd years ago. He claims it was under three hours, but apparently it was actually over four. While I do believe he’s probably deliberately lying here, rather than innocently “misremembering” (runners tell me they remember their marathon times like other people remember their SAT scores), normally I think it would be way too petty to make a big deal out of it.

However, given that: 1) for some time now, Ryan has had a reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth, a reputation that notably enhanced by his convention address, a speech that was unusually mendacious even by the standards of the contemporary G.O.P.; and 2) during the 2000 election, the Republicans, and (especially) their enablers in the mainstream media, hung Al Gore for far less (see here, for example), I think going after Paul Ryan for this is totally fair game.

Yes, it’s trivial BS. And no, I don’t by any means believe that this should be the focal point of attacks on Paul Ryan — the fact that he and his party are such ruthless champions of the immiseration of working people should be the main focus of said attacks, always.

That said, ridicule is a powerful weapon, and one which progressives should not shy away from (though sadly, some of the more misguidedly high-minded ones among us do). Besides, if you think I’m going to pass up the opportunity to crack snarky Rosie Ruiz jokes at Ryan’s expense, you are so, so wrong. Clearly!

 

By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 1, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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