In the ensuing hours since his public humiliation in Seattle hit the internet, crotchety communist Bernie Sanders' campaign tossed up a plan on criminal justice reform. Of course, on Sanders' website, it is referred to as "racial justice." This is, undoubtedly, a cynical attempt to increase his standing with a constituency that he is losing to Hillary Clinton by large percentages. Sanders has, in no uncertain terms, a "black problem." His campaign and his supporters like to post fun little memes on Facebook about his marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. and participating in sit ins while Hillary campaigned for Barry M. Goldwater, never mind that that was fifty years ago. The Sanders' of today's rhetoric on race is much different. His views on immigrants reek of a level of xenophobia that would be at home at a Donald Trump or Pat Buchanan rally. As the black vote goes, Sanders seems to think it's unimportant. After all, when issues that disproportionately affect blacks come up, Sanders does little more than pay lip service to them and quickly reverts back to his tired old talking points about 15 dollar per hour minimum wage and income inequality. Things that have zero to do with issues of criminal justice (or mass incarceration if you prefer). That is until being heckled twice by Black Lives Matter protesters. So, what is in the reform plan offered by Sanders? More federal money to police forces, a call for new rules on allowable use of force (ask Eric Garner how well such rules work). Of course, there is the obligatory lip service paid to ending the war on drugs and eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing. Of course, this is all put forth in the vaguest of terms (populists don't need no stinking details). Sanders plan does not mention civil asset forfeiture. It does not push for independent investigation of police incidents either. His Democratic opponent, Martin O'Malley's play does call for these things. In addition, O'Malley also calls for reducing solitary confinement, and reforms to the way that detained aliens are treated (something you won't hear from comrade Bernard). On the Republican side, Rand Paul has actually taken (or attempted to take) some action on criminal justice reform. He has sponsored the REDEEM Act, which aims to help non violent offenders expunge their criminal records. He has also sponsored the Justice Safety Valve Act, which would give judges more discretion in sentencing, effectively reducing mandatory minimums. This, in addition to bills aimed at restoring voting rights to all non violent offenders, making possession of illicit drugs a misdemeanor and eliminating the discrepancy between crack and powdered cocaine (legalization would be more ideal), and reforming civil asset forfeiture. Of course, given Sanders' statism, it seems only fitting that any plan he offered to curtail the power of the state would come up wanting. A perusal of the "plan" spelled out on his website finds him once again falling back on his tired old talking points about the need for a $15 an hour minimum wage (an issue that applies only to a small percentage of a small percentage of workers) and "free" (read: tax payer funded, be wary middle class) college. Sanders may be good at screaming irrationally about corporations, and exciting throngs of upper-middle class white kids with generic platitudes about the racially pure socialist nationalism of northern Europe, that much is undeniable. As a serious candidate, he's a joke. His ideas rarely stand up to scrutiny, and his assertions rely on (at best) half truths or (at worst) outright fabrication. Furthermore, if you are a person who has been harassed, threatened, or affected in anyway by police misconduct, how can you really trust a man so wedded to public sector union money? If you legitimately want criminal justice reform, Rand Paul or Martin O'Malley would be a better choice. However, if your only goal in life is to see the successful punished and for the middle class to pay the same astronomical taxes that they pay over in Scandinavia whilst wearing concern for the poor as a beard, by all means, continue blindly following Sanders.
Daily Kos (a handy chart that compares the O'Malley and Sanders plans)
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Saturday, August 8, 2015
An annoying little meme has popped up in my social networking feed a few times over the past couple of weeks. It purports to show the top ten donors to the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns. With Hillary's list, of course, being all investment banks, and Bernie Sander's list being labour unions. The implication of this, of course, is supposed to be that Hillary is an out of touch plutocrat bent on selling you into corporate slavery, and that old Bernie is your saviour, a red blooded man of the people. The problem with this meme is, like a lot of memes, it can not, and should not be taken at face value. The Clinton side still shows Lehman Brothers as a contributor to her campaign. This signifies that the list is greatly out of date. Lehman Brothers went defunct in 2008. According to OpenSecrets, a good chunk of Hillary's contributions in the 2016 campaign so far have come from law firms. However, this article is not to call into question the high dollar connections of Hillary Clinton (we all know them already), it is to set the record straight on one Mr. Bernard "just a good ol' man of the people" Sanders. Again, the lists presented by the meme are quite out of date and have nothing to do with the 2016 campaign. The list for Sanders looks quite a bit different this time around. The only organization on the list presented by the meme that is still present in 2016 is the National Education Association. If we look at Sanders' list, we see many business interests represented. However, there were a few that stood out to me as particularly hilarious given the fervent insistence on the part of Sanders' supporters that he is "not for sale." The first one that pops out is multi-billion dollar investment management firm Merrill Lynch. For a fellow who blusters on endlessly about the malicious greed of Wall Street, shouldn't he be made to give back the (admittedly rather paltry) $3,700 he received from them? Other large companies on the list, for those of you who can't be bothered to click the link, are: Google, Apple, Amazon, UPS, and Coldwell Banker. Of course, my personal favourite is the presence of Boeing, a large part of the military-industrial complex that Sanders positions himself as an opponent of. Don't get me wrong, Bernouts, if you want to vote for Sanders, go ahead. However, I'm going to say this: thus far, Sanders has enjoyed relatively few contributions from big business because he represents a state with little pull. When and if he wins the Democratic nomination, the floodgates will open and he will gladly drink up the spillage. I'll remind you that a certain junior senator from Illinois also ranted at great length about the evils of money in politics and then gladly ate up the largesse they sent his way.