mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Caring About The Political Fortunes Of The Causes”: If Bernie Sanders Wins, Centrist Liberals Are Morally Obligated To Support Him

In modern electoral politics, moderate and centrist Democrats are well-known for browbeating leftists with the lesser-evil argument. Democrats might not be particularly concerned about, say, child poverty, but they’re still better than Republicans on just about any issue you care to name. Obama might drone strike American citizens, but at least he doesn’t start full-blown wars of aggression that kill hundreds of thousands of people.

And that’s true, so far as it goes. However, there is a small but distinct possibility that moderates might find themselves on the receiving end of such an argument in the next election, if a leftist like Bernie Sanders wins the presidential nomination. As Matt Bruenig points out, they don’t seem to like this possibility. But they better be prepared for it.

For an example of a Democratic partisan, here’s Mark Kleiman explaining why he doesn’t agree with “emo-progs” (i.e., left-wing critics of Obama), in a post from a couple years ago entitled “Confessions of an Obamabot”:

What the emo-progs refuse to remember — now, and in the run-up to the 2010 election — that I never for a moment forget is that, whatever the failings of Barack Obama the human being, “Barack Obama” the political persona is the leader of the Democratic Party (and thus, effectively, of the entire progressive coalition) in a battle with a well-organized, well-funded, and utterly dedicated plutocrat-theocrat-racist-misogynist-obscurantist-ecocidal Red Team, whose lunatic extremism is now actually a threat to republican governance. If I’m reluctant to help Rand Paul and Glenn Greenwald add NSA! to Benghazi! and IRS! and Solyndra! and all the other b.s. pseudo-scandals designed to make Obama into Richard Nixon, it’s not because I’m in love with “The One:” it’s because, for good or ill, the political fortunes of the cause I care about are now tied to Obama’s political fortunes. [Washington Monthly]

Interpreted narrowly, this is a reasonable point. It is very often taken too far, of course — as with the people who blame the 97,000 Nader voters in Florida in 2000 for Gore’s loss of that state, instead of the 2.9 million who affirmatively voted for Bush. I would further add that Democrats should not always be supported without question. Centrist hack Democrats like Andrew Cuomo do not care about left-wing priorities like affordable housing and quality public transit — indeed he has actively worked against both. In Cuomo’s case, it is worth risking a potential loss in order to change the political incentives in New York at the state level.

Still, in America, tactical voting must always be a consideration. And for voters in swing states, that consideration is powerful indeed. Republicans really could do spectacular damage — just look at the smoking wreckage the last GOP president left.

The question is whether moderates are willing to swallow such an argument if Sanders manages to clinch the Democratic nomination. It’s still an extreme long shot, but it’s not completely out of the question.

After all, something similar happened in the U.K. just last week, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. The reaction was not encouraging. Moderate liberals, like New Labourite Tony Blair, who all but begged his nation on hands and knees not to vote Corbyn (and probably added 10 points to Corbyn’s victory margin in the process), are furious. Some Labour MPs have reportedly even approached the Liberal Democratic Party about defecting.

Of course, that’s in the U.K., a genuinely multi-party democracy. There is less of an obligation to support Labour when the Greens or Scottish National Party could end up being part of a liberal coalition. In the U.S., there are only two real national parties, thus greatly strengthening any lesser-evil argument.

So unless moderate liberals’ arguments were 100 percent hypocrisy, should Sanders lock down the nomination, they will be obliged to support him. If they really care about the political fortunes of the causes they care about — ObamaCare, climate change, women’s rights, a higher minimum wage, keeping 27-year-old Heritage interns off the Supreme Court, etc. — they best start saying “actually, democratic socialism is good” in front of a mirror. They may need the practice.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, September 20, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Who Should Investigate Police Abuse?”: When Local DA’s Investigate Local Police Officers, There Is An Inherent Conflict Of Interest

The national conversation about police abuse will shortly take a new turn. Following the failures of local grand juries to bring charges against the white police officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, protesters around the country took to the streets. Then, after the murders of the New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn on December 21st, a fierce backlash against the anti-police protests began. The result is a sour standoff, with opposing sides united only in their sense of victimhood. Protesters shout “I can’t breathe,” and cops turn their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio—but now what?

To date, one serious proposal for reform has emerged. On December 8th, Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, proposed that Governor Andrew Cuomo name him, Schneiderman, as an independent special prosecutor to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute police officers in any situation where they cause the death of a civilian. As Schneiderman noted in his letter to the governor, the proposal seeks to address a real problem. When local district attorneys investigate local police officers, there is an inherent conflict of interest. In virtually all usual circumstances, police and prosecutors are partners, working together to build cases against defendants. This is especially true in a place like Staten Island, where the elected district attorney, Dan Donovan, both works closely with the police and answers to many of them as his constituents. As Schneinderman noted, on the rare occasions when prosecutors investigate the police, even when all parties act with the best of intentions, “the question is whether there is public confidence that justice has been served, especially in cases where homicide or other serious charges against the accused officer are not pursued or are dismissed prior to a jury trial.” Cases, in other words, like those of the officers who killed Brown and Garner. (Cuomo has hedged in response to Schneiderman’s idea, saying that he wants to weigh a full package of reforms.)

Schneiderman’s proposal met with a fiercely negative response from an unexpected quarter. Kenneth Thompson, the newly elected district attorney in Brooklyn, blasted Schneiderman’s proposal as “unworkable” and an insult to the state’s sixty-two elected district attorneys. Thompson, a Democrat, is hardly a mouthpiece for his colleagues in law enforcement; he defeated an incumbent district attorney, in significant part, by criticizing the cozy relationship between police and prosecutors in the borough. In his objections to Schneiderman’s proposal, Thompson pointed to potential practical problems—saying that it would stretch the attorney general too thin, particularly if it came to include all accusations of police brutality, not just those that ended in death. But Thompson’s objections were also more profound. “As the duly elected district attorney of Brooklyn, I am more than able to thoroughly and fairly investigate any fatality of an unarmed civilian by a police officer,” Thompson said. Indeed, Thompson recently brought a police-brutality case against two officers, and is investigating the recent police-shooting death of an unarmed man in a housing project.

The conflict between Schneiderman and Thompson illustrates a paradox, even a contradiction, in the criminal-justice system. New York, like most states, has a regime of elected countywide prosecutors. The idea is that law enforcement should respond to the needs of the local community, and for the subjective needs of the community to be paramount. But the system also demands objectivity—an ideal of justice untainted by the special interests of the locals. This is the heart of the conflict over Schneiderman’s idea, and both sides can point to examples that prove their point. It is true that local prosecutors like Thompson have, on occasion, brought successful cases against local police officers. And outsiders, who are not subject to the usual checks and balances on prosecutors, can abuse their freedom. “When you start to talk about special prosecutors—do we really want another Ken Starr?” Frank Sedita, the Erie County District Attorney, asked in response to Schneiderman, referring to the federal independent counsel who led the investigation of President Bill Clinton. The risk, according to Sedita, is ending up with “somebody who is not accountable to the public and specifically not accountable to the citizens of that county.”

Schneiderman’s idea has considerable appeal; his judgment in the Eric Garner case would surely have had more credibility than the one rendered by Donovan. Still, special prosecutors are not necessarily good or bad. Like the locals they replace, they are only as good as the cases they bring, or refrain from bringing. That, ultimately, will rest on the good judgment of the individuals involved, and no one has yet figured out a way of putting the right person in place all the time.

 

By: Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, December 30, 2014

January 5, 2015 Posted by | District Attorney's, Police Abuse, Police Brutality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lion Of Liberalism”: Remembering Mario Cuomo, 1932-2015

When I met Mario Cuomo in the summer of 1978, he was already a celebrated public figure, if not yet a political powerhouse. We were at the Democratic state convention in Albany, where I was reporting for the Village Voice, and he was pondering an offer from New York governor Hugh Carey, then seeking re-election, to join the ticket as lieutenant governor. Mario frankly didn’t much trust Carey, who needed him more than he needed a largely ceremonial promotion from his then-position as secretary of state.

But in the end he accepted the deal, both because he believed that New York needed a Democratic administration, regardless of his personal feelings toward the governor — and because he knew that this step would advance his own political career.

That was my introduction to the Cuomo style of “progressive pragmatism” – and to a charming, thoughtful, highly literate, and occasionally volatile figure who became one of the most compelling orators of the late 20th century.

His speech at the 1984 Democratic convention, delivered at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s reign, remains a remarkably inspirational assertion of progressive values against conservative complacency and cruelty. His address at Notre Dame on religious belief and public morality that same year courageously defended the independence of Catholic elected officials from subservience to church doctrine on reproductive rights.

In recent years, it has been fashionable to draw contrasts between Mario, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82, and his older son Andrew, who was sworn in for a second term as governor of New York only hours earlier. According to the conventional wisdom, Mario was liberal while Andrew is conservative; Mario was too self-doubting to run for president, while Andrew is too self-confident not to run, someday.

Whatever the differences in personality between father and son, however, Mario’s reputation as the conscience of the Democrats grew more from what he said than what he did. “We campaign in poetry but we govern in prose,” he famously remarked – and much of his governance was prosaic indeed.

He spoke out bravely against capital punishment, for instance, yet built more prison cells than any governor in state history. He approved tax cuts, held down spending, and was proud of his balanced budgets – even while the number of homeless on New York’s streets swelled during his administrations. But he borrowed billions to stimulate spending and create jobs with major public works in environmental protection, education, roads, bridges, and mass transit.

As a columnist for the Voice, I didn’t always agree with his priorities, to put it mildly, and wrote many columns criticizing his policies. More than once I picked up a jangling telephone to hear an angry, argumentative Governor Cuomo railing on the line, without the pleasantry of a “hello.” It was an experience that other reporters shared from time to time. But I have met very few elected officials who were as kind or as genuine.

And I’ve known few politicians as engaging in conversation, or as erudite without pretension. He wrote wonderful diaries of his first campaign for governor, published by Random House in 1984, and could speak as cogently about the history of Lincoln’s presidency as the philosophy of the Jesuit visionary Teilhard de Chardin. But he was still a tough lawyer who went to public schools and grew up on the streets of Queens.

Among the most amusing Cuomo anecdotes is one from the 1977 New York City mayoral campaign, when he is supposed to have confronted Michael Long, the unsavory chairman of the state’s Conservative Party, on a street corner – and knocked him out with a single punch. (Long later claimed this report was an “embellishment,” but I heard it straight from an impeccable source.)

Exaggerated or not, that little legend captures the feisty essence of Mario Cuomo – a man of passionate intellect and spirit, who sought to make his values real in this world. He worked diligently and spoke powerfully, reminding millions of Americans about values we ought to cherish. I have no doubt he will rest in peace.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, January 2, 2015

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Mario Cuomo, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Free Spirits With No Accountability”: 179 People Killed By NYPD, 1 Cop Conviction, No Jail Time

Over the last 15 years, NYPD officers have killed at least 179 people, according to a new investigation.

The New York Daily News found that in only three of those incidents, the officer involved was indicted and only once was the cop convicted.

In that one instance, when ex-officer Bryan Conroy was convicted in 2005 of criminally negligent homicide for killing Ousmane Zongo, Conroy didn’t serve any jail time.

Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, defended the NYPD officer’s actions.

“When there is a life-or-death situation on the street, be it an armed robbery, a homicidal maniac on the street or someone driving a vehicle in a dangerous and potentially deadly way, it is New York City police officers who step in and take the risk away from the public and put it on themselves,” Lynch said in a statement. “Our work has saved tens of thousands of lives by assuming the risk and standing between New Yorkers and life-threatening danger.”

To be sure, some of the incidents catalogued by the Daily News involved the justified use of deadly force by officers.

But, holding cops accountable when they are not justified in killing someone is difficult, because often the prosecutors tasked with bringing charges against officers also rely on good relationships with police to do their day-to-day work. DA’s also count on endorsements from police unions when they run for re-election.

The recent decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner chokehold case, has set off calls for laws requiring special prosecutors in cases involving possible police misconduct.

The idea behind any proposed legislation would be to keep local district attorneys out of cases where they might be biased in favor of the police department they work with regularly.

But some, like panelists involved in a recent Democracy Now discussion, said such reforms have been sought for years and have little chance of becoming law, at least at the federal level.

Harry Siegel, a columnist for the Daily News, pointed out that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently said special prosecutors could be necessary in some cases, had the chance to appoint a special prosecutor in the Garner, case but didn’t.

“I would note that Governor Andrew Cuomo, who’s now mumbling about all sorts of reforms, had the opportunity to appoint a special prosecutor here,” Siegel said on Democracy Now. “Andrew here, who’s now outraged by where we’re at, allowed us to get to this point.”

 

By: Simon McCormick, The Huffington Post, December 8, 2014

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Justifiable Homicide, NYPD, Police Shotings | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wall Street Takes Over More Statehouses”: Public Pension Wall Street Feeding Frenzy About To Get Worse

No runoff will be needed to declare one unambiguous winner in this month’s gubernatorial elections: the financial services industry. From Illinois to Massachusetts, voters effectively placed more than $100 billion worth of public pension investments under the control of executives-turned-politicians whose firms profit by managing state pension money.

The elections played out as states and cities across the country debate the merits of shifting public pension money — the retirement savings for police, firefighters, teachers and other public employees — from plain vanilla investments such as index funds into higher-risk alternatives like hedge funds and private equity funds.

Critics argue that this course has often failed to boost returns enough to compensate for taxpayer-financed fees paid to the financial services companies that manage the money. Wall Street firms and executives have poured campaign contributions into states that have embraced the strategy, eager for expanded opportunities. The election results affirmed that this money was well spent: More public pension money will now likely be entrusted to the financial services industry.

In Illinois, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn was defeated by Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, who made his fortune as an executive at a financial firm called GTCR, which rakes in fees from pension investments. Rauner — who retains an ownership stake in at least 15 separate GTCR entities, according to his financial disclosure forms — will now be fully in charge of his state’s pension system.

In Rhode Island, venture capitalist Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, defeated Republican Allan Fung. Raimondo retains an ownership stake in a firm that manages funds from Rhode Island’s $7 billion pension system. Raimondo’s campaign received hundreds of thousands of dollars from financial industry donors. She was also aided by six-figure PAC donations from former Enron trader John Arnold, who has waged a national campaign to slash workers’ pensions.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, handily defeated his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, after raising millions of dollars from the finance industry. The New York legislature is set to send Cuomo a bill that would permit the New York state and city pension funds to move an additional $7 billion into hedge funds, private equity and other high-fee “alternative” investments. Cuomo has not taken a public position on the bill, but his party in the legislature passed it by a wide margin, and he is widely expected to sign it into law.

In Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker appeared early Wednesday to have secured a narrow victory over Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Baker was on the board of mutual funds managed by a financial firm that has also managed funds from Massachusetts’ $53 billion pension system. Baker is also the subject of a New Jersey investigation over his $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey State Republican Party just months before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s officials awarded his firm a state pension deal.

In all, Republicans won 18 gubernatorial races thanks, in part, to the robust fundraising of Christie’s Republican Governors Association. Some of that organization’s top donors are the financial investment firms that manage public pension systems.

Former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Edward Siedle said campaign cash from the financial industry is fundamentally shaping the debate over how to manage state pension systems.

“Why have all pension reform candidates concluded that workers’ retirement benefits must be harshly cut, but, on the other hand, fees to Wall Street be exponentially increased?” said Siedle, who has published a series of forensic reports critical of politicians shifting ever more pension money to Wall Street. “The answer, of course, is that more money than ever is being spent by billionaires to support a public pension Wall Street feeding frenzy.”

After the 2014 election, that feeding frenzy is only going to intensify.

 

By: David Sirota, Senior Writer at The International Business Times; Published in The National Memo, November 14, 2014

November 18, 2014 Posted by | Financial Industry, Public Pension System, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: