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“Sanders Still Threatening A Floor Fight”: An Honest Discussion About Free Trade Is Not Likely In This Election

The DNC’s Platform Committee completed work last weekend on a draft document that will be discussed at a meeting in Orlando prior to being taken up at the Convention. According to reports, they reached a lot of important compromises, especially on the issue of Wall Street reforms.

But Nicole Gaudiano writes that Bernie Sanders is still threatening a floor fight over the platform if he doesn’t get further concessions. His primary target is the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Most important to Sanders, he said, is that the platform opposes a vote in Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact he says would have “disastrous” consequences for U.S. workers and the environment. Clinton’s supporters on the drafting committee rejected such an amendment by one of Sanders supporters last weekend.

…Sanders said “we want to see the TPP killed” and the amendment should have won overwhelmingly, but he said Clinton’s representatives worried they would “embarrass” President Obama, who has pushed for the TPP.

“Well, I don’t want to embarrass the president either. He’s a friend,” Sanders said. “But in a Democratic society, people can have disagreements.”

While it’s true that President Obama isn’t wavering in his support of TPP and a plank opposing it in his own party’s platform would be unprecedented, to hear Sanders talk, you would assume that all Democrats except the President oppose the deal. That is not true. As I wrote over a year ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (which is dominated by Democratic mayors) endorsed TPP. Ron Brownstein more recently reported on why that support from our major metropolitan areas is unwavering. Moreover, a few months ago, Max Ehrenfreund summarized polls showing that the American public in general has mixed feelings about free trade.

To the extent that Sanders wants to make this all about “Clinton’s representatives” or protecting President Obama from embarrassment, he is simply ignoring the position of Democrats from all over the country. Contrary to what many would have us believe, there is not a consensus position on free trade within the Democratic Party. That probably explains why the platform committee settled on language “that said ‘there are a diversity of views in the party’ on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal ‘must protect workers and the environment.’”

In this election, the American public is not getting an honest discussion about free trade. We all know that Donald Trump is demagoguing the issue, Bernie Sanders is simply saying “no” while exploiting the fears that were stirred up by NAFTA and Hillary Clinton is dodging the issue. In other words, the opponents are yelling so loud that no one else is even trying to speak up.

As someone who recognizes that trade is necessary and that agreements are a way to protect not only our economy/environment but have played a vital role in lifting people out of extreme poverty around the globe, this is an unacceptable situation. Discussing trade agreements raises hard issues that are likely to lead to both payoffs and sacrifices. One has to wonder if the American public is capable of having a discussion like that right now. In an election year, I guess not.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ending Police Brutality Isn’t Up To The Communities”: Want To Stop Police Brutality? Start Disciplining Officers

As they strive to solve the public crisis of police use-of-force incidents, illuminated again by the deaths of several black victims last year, officials from the White House on down have coalesced around “community policing.” When it comes to influencing the national conversation on a local issue like this, it doesn’t get more official than the U.S. Conference of Mayors, or USCM. The non-partisan organization is comprised of more than one thousand mayors representing the nation’s largest cities. Its mission is to shape national urban policy and the positions adopted at their annual meeting are distributed to the President of the United States and to Congress.

On January 30, the USCM released a report on strengthening “police-community” relations in American cities. The six-page report came full of recommendations for everything from “youth study circles” to new equipment. The report was completed with the help of a working group of police chiefs, including Philadelphia Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the man appointed by President Obama to chair his Task Force on 21st Century Policing in response to rising unrest around around the issue of police brutality.

Absent from their suggestions, however, was a single mention of officer discipline.

A full page is dedicated to the imprecise goal of “Addressing Racial and Economic Disparities and Community Frustration with and Distrust of Governmental Institutions.” The use of “distrust,” however, is disingenuous. While black citizens do report having less confidence than white ones in police, the overwhelming majoritymore than three-quartersreport having some to a “great deal of confidence” in police. Trust isn’t the issue here.

What the #BlackLivesMatter protests made clear is that communities of color are increasingly fed up with the over-policing of our neighborhoods, extrajudicial killings of unarmed black people and the failures of the justice system to hold killer cops accountable. To ignore those complaints and suggest that the issue is merely one of distrust is dishonest, and it evades the very obvious fact that police brutality is a national problem that persists, in part, because cops can get away with it.

I’ve commented before on “community policing,” but it’s worth noting again how troubling that term is. “Community policing” reframes the conversation around police reform from one that addresses police brutality to one that addresses the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, as though they’re mutually combative. The relationship between the two isn’t the issue. It’s the manner in which law enforcement relates to communities of color that’s proven deadly, time and time again.

Comedian Chris Rock provided an apt analogy for this during his recent New York Magazine interview.

“If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, ‘Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.’ It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner.”

Similarly, ending police brutality isn’t up to the communities that are brutalized. It’s up to the cops.

Now, the USCM report is not all bad. Its call for independent investigations of deadly police encounters is a substantive step. It makes helpful nods toward improving hiring and training practices. However, the report’s failure to get serious about police reform and combating police abuses and to instead focus on “relationships,” while politically convenient, doesn’t begin to solve the problem. The report fails, for instance, to address the systematic failure of police departments nationally to discipline officers who are found to have inappropriately engaged citizens and used excessive force.

Take the New York Police Department, for example, the nation’s largest. It is often at the forefront of innovation in the field. But, when it comes to disciplining officers for misconduct, the NYPD fails miserably. Just last year, the department decided not to discipline 25 percent of the officers who its Civilian Complaint Review Board found guilty of committing misconduct. A WNYC report also found that the NYPD fails to drive out cops who present red flags for abuse.

Within policing, too-frequent charges of “resisting arrest” by cops is a red flag for excessive force. The logic is that an abusive officer will be more likely to cover up excessive force with the excuse that a suspect resisted arrest. But WNYC found that just five percent of officers who’ve made arrests since 2009 accounted for 40 percent of the charges of resisting arrest. They even discovered one active officer to have made more than 50 charges. Does the community just need a better “relationship” with this cop who curiously finds himself in these sorts of situations time and time again?

Coincidentally, just last week, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton asked New York lawmakers to raise resisting arrest from a misdemeanor to a felony. That is an alarming claim, given how and why Eric Garner was choked to death on Staten Island by a police officer in July. Like the subsequent deaths of John Crawford III in an Ohio Wal-Mart, Tamir Rice near a Cleveland community center, each incident was avoidable and not one of their killers has been brought to justice. Another one that qualifies is the November shooting death of Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell; we learned Tuesday that the officer involved was indicted Tuesday on several counts, including second-degree manslaughter.

There’s a suite of reforms, from recruiting to data collection, that need to be made throughout the nation’s police departments, and strengthening discipline measures must be central to any proposal that seeks justice for victims of police brutality and to prevent future tragedies.

First, police departments must do a better job of actively ferreting out bad cops. Using early warning systems that trigger an intervention process when an officer has an excessive number of use of force complaints against him, or has filed a certain number of resisting arrest charges, is a start. Departments also need central databases that collect information on police conduct from various sources, so that an officer’s complete record can be compiled and viewed. Police departments must also make it a priority to maintain their integrity by investigating citizen complaints swiftly, impartially and with transparency. Independent, civilian-led complaint review boards are essential in doing that work.

Finally, the decisions of civilian review boards should not just serve as recommendations for discipline, but should be a determining factor in it. That is, in effect, the only way to hold police officers directly accountable to the communities they serve.

“Community policing” sounds good. As proposed, it will probably be more politically expedient than substantive change in policy, but we cannot fix our deadly system of policing without addressing officer discipline. There must be measures in place to make cops think twice about pulling the trigger. It’s a matter of accountability, but also of life and death.

 

By: Donovan X. Ramsey, The New Republic, Fbruary 12, 2015

 

February 13, 2015 Posted by | Community Policing, Police Abuse, Police Brutality | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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