Opposition Leadership

We need someone speaking every single day to the media and other party members, without apology, for progress and for our values. This is important in any context, but it is of even greater importance with a conservative Republican governor and with Democrats taking on an opposing role.

We, the progressive core of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, are not merely right on the issues in idealistic terms; our solutions are actually more realistic and more grounded than the other side’s solutions. And when the other side occupies part of the space of our party and blurs the lines on critical issues, it becomes harder to win elections than it should be, rather than helping to retain seats in swing districts. While there is room for disagreement on policy specifics, there should be a broad alignment of values on the major and contentious issues of our time.

Voters want bold, clear, and courageous leadership in their officials. Leadership sometimes means leading the voters toward one’s point of view on the issues. We have to make our case, in plain terms, as to why we are correct on those issues.

We can only offer the voters an informed choice in making their decisions at the ballot box if we argue our case to them for our preferred positions on the issues.

No moment for bystanders

Seeing grave injustices mounting publicly, abetted openly by some in our political system and many in our society, we are all called upon to stand up, step up, and speak out.

Since August 2014, I have been working to find ways to contribute to turning back this tide of bigotry and indifference toward rampant injustice. I have devoted many hours of my radio show and countless articles to exposing racial injustice and Islamophobia in our country. I have sought to amplify the voices of the unheard via the platform that I have.

I refuse to be a helpless bystander or hopelessly apathetic in the face of what is going on in this country. I would rather try to do something and fail, than to have done nothing at all. My values are meaningless if they remain inert and unvoiced.

I hope you will join me in this fight.

German Vice Chancellor acknowledges Saudi terrorism ties

800px-Flag_of_Germany.svg

Following a report by German intelligence on the threat posed by Saudi terror financing and religious propaganda networks – a report disavowed by Chancellor Merkel – Germany’s Vice Chancellor, of the junior coalition partner Social Democratic Party, offered some public thoughts.

The Telegraph (UK):

Sigmar Gabriel said that the Saudi regime is funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security.

“We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Mr Gabriel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

“Wahhabi mosques all over the world are financed by Saudi Arabia. Many Islamists who are a threat to public safety come from these communities in Germany.”

The allegation that Saudi Arabia has funded mosques with links to Islamist terrorism in the West is not new. But it is highly unusual for a Western leader to speak out so directly against the West’s key Arab ally.

 
His full statement wasn’t unqualified either…unfortunately. The Kingdom continues to get a special pass vastly misaligned with the scale of its involvement in global destabilization today.


Previously on this topic:

Oped, 10/4/14 | “Reform Islam Vs. the Billionaire Barons”
1/13/15: “German MP asks if his country’s (and party’s) leader supports salafists”

Innocence, even after “proven” guilty

We need to be sure that every single person we are imprisoning should actually be there. We should not be imprisoning people because they can’t pay a fine or can’t afford adequate representation. And our society certainly shouldn’t be imprisoning innocent people.

A 2014 study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that about 1-4% of U.S. death row inmates are wrongfully convicted.

At least one of its authors believe that this may mean tens of thousands of Americans have also been wrongfully imprisoned on lesser charges.

The average time served for the 1,625 exonerated individuals in the registry is more than nine years.
[…]
How many people are convicted of crimes they did not commit? Last year, a study I co-authored on the issue was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows that 4.1 percent of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are later shown to be innocent: 1 in 25.

Death sentences are uniquely well-documented. We don’t know nearly enough about other kinds of criminal cases to estimate the rate of wrongful convictions for those. The rate could be lower than for capital murders, or it could be higher. Of course, in a country with millions of criminal convictions a year and more than 2 million people behind bars, even 1 percent amounts to tens of thousands of tragic errors.

 
While some members of the public may be concerned about the possibility of guilty people walking free, this concern should be addressed by increasing public resources for investigations and prosecutions of unsolved crimes or crimes with insufficient evidence, rather than by erring on the side of wrongful imprisonment.

death-penaltyThere can be no justice in a justice system that frequently imprisons the wrong people because of poor or non-existent representation, racism, or other factors. Nor does wrongful imprisonment keep us safe, given that it may mean a real offender is instead walking free to commit new crimes.

 

We cannot afford to be passive on reproductive freedom

Women have an inalienable right to make autonomous and independent decisions about their bodies and their reproductive choices in consultation with their physicians. As demonstrated yesterday once again, this right is under constant assault across the United States at this moment by lawmakers and reactionary extremists.

It is no longer sufficient for those who make and execute our laws to maintain an ambivalence or passivity on the question of access to this vital, lifesaving healthcare. It has not been sufficient ever since the Stupak Amendment made clear in 2009 that the cause of reproductive freedom was under assault and that the other side was significantly more prepared. Our officials, at every level, must defend that right vigorously against all infringements and impediments, whether by individuals or policymakers. That right covers both abortion services and contraceptive methods, as well as impartial counseling and prenatal health services.

Our officials should also seek to ensure an equality of access to this right for all women (or any members of our society who can get pregnant), regardless of means or circumstance. They should also secure the right for all people to obtain health care without private interference or intimidation.

You chose not to listen. You chose not to act.

The reality of the situation right now, in Chicago and in Minneapolis, but also everywhere else is this:

First of all, it should not have taken seeing video evidence to convince so many White Americans that police violence was happening — and happening pretty frequently — because Black America (as well as basically every other marginalized section of our population) has been telling us all for years/decades/centuries about widespread police violence, and society chose not to listen or believe them.

Second, many more White Americans are *continuing* to put their heads in the sand and their fingers in their ears, just as they did after the 1991 footage of Rodney King — except now there’s wall-to-wall evidence available, which makes the indifference and denial look far more deliberate.

Third, even if you believe that it is just “a few bad apples” in these police forces, the rest of that old expression is “spoil the bunch” — and if you don’t remove the rot then it will spread. Every one bad / violent cop probably undermines the hard work of thousands of law enforcement officials who are selflessly putting the lives of innocent people before their own or are simply acting appropriately every day on the job.

Every leader of a city government or police force who attempts to cover for or cover up or excuse police abuses is reducing the force’s ability to build trust with its community to be able to do its job. Misconduct and acts of violence should be cause for termination. Mishandling those acts should be cause for resignation.

Stop acting like everything is a one-off episode. We know it’s not.

Libya talks: A pox on both your houses of parliament

A top Libyan Muslim Brotherhood leader has called for the fractured country’s UN-brokered talks to dump both rival expired governments and start over with a wider table that acknowledges power realities on the ground, according to the Libya Herald:

A peace deal had to be based on national consensus, he said. Moreover, it could not ignore those who had power on the ground, such as the Libya Dawn militias in the west of the country, and in the east, not just members of the Benghazi and Derna shoura councils but the Khalifa Hafter’s Operation Dignity as well. Tribal and political leaders equally had to be involved along with elders from across the country and representatives of Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani’s Dar Al-Ifta, and even supporters of the former regime.

Any attempt to build peace around the HoR [House of Representatives] and the GNC [General National Congress] would fail, he warned. They were deeply unpopular with the Libyan public and could not contribute to stability in Libya.

 
This is pretty fair given that both rival governments’ democratic mandates have now entirely expired and the last UN negotiator turned out to be secretly on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates, which was bombing one of the sides. It’s also worth noting that his list of participants specifically includes the people most virulently opposed to his own faction, as well as various ideological rivals and quasi-allies.

Map of three coastal cities in Libya. Adapted from Wikimedia.

Map of three coastal cities in Libya. Adapted from Wikimedia.