Clinton, Trump Triumph in New York Primaries

Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton gives a speech in New York City, New York, April 18
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton gives a speech in New York City, New York, April 18 (Hillary for America/Michael Davidson)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, respectively, in New York on Tuesday, making a Clinton-Trump contest in November more likely.

Clinton’s win was less overwhelming than Trump’s. She got nearly 58 percent support in the state she once represented in the United States Senate against 42 percent for her socialist rival, Bernie Sanders.

But in terms of delegates, Clinton is now so far ahead of Sanders that it is almost impossible for him to catch up.

Including so-called superdelegates (party officials), Clinton already has 1,930 out of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination, according to the Associated Press.

By NBC News’ count, Sanders would need to win 59 percent of the remaining regular delegates to win a majority of them. And then he would still need to persuade a majority of superdelegates to vote for him at the convention. Neither seems likely. Read more

Michael Bloomberg and the Power of New York

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg visits Medellín, Colombia, April 7, 2014
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg visits Medellín, Colombia, April 7, 2014 (Alcaldía de Medellín)

Last month, a report in The New York Times suggested that Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City from 2002 until 2014, has been thinking about running for president of the United States as a third-party candidate and may be willing to spend as much as a billion dollars of his own money to do so. Read more

New York and Cairo: Triumphs of Demagoguery

View of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York, June 20, 2008
View of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York, June 20, 2008 (Rich Greene)

One of the fundamental qualities of a statesman is that of probity. Most oaths of office include the term for a very important reason: because popular support is but one of the standards for governance. Indeed, the public is fickle and its capricious whims can be easily verified by the recurring opinion polls which show that the masses’ defining characteristic is that they are inconstant.

Nowadays, many a democracy have been corrupted by populism and statesmen everywhere bow to public pressure when they should not. Instead of doing what they know is best, they rule cosmetically and simply do that which is popular. Read more

Will New York Ban Cell Phones for Pedestrians?

New Yorkers should be stopped from talking on their cell phones when crossing the street, says state Senator Carl Kruger. The Democrat has introduced legislation that would fine people $100 when they’re caught using a mobile device nevertheless.

“You can’t be fully aware of your surroundings if you’re fiddling with a Blackberry, dialing a phone number, playing Super Mario Brothers on a Game Boy or listening to music on an iPod,” according to Kruger.

On his website, the senator cites a rise in “accidents stemming from pedestrian distraction,” including the unfortunate demise of a young man who was crushed by a truck while listening on headphones to music and a woman “engrossed in conversation on her cell phone walking straight into a park fountain.”

The Arkansas legislature is considering a similar proposal that would ban pedestrians, runners and cyclists from wearing headphones in both ears.

In Arkansas, they don’t even know how many people were hurt because they were “distracted” and didn’t pay attention to traffic. In Kruger’s case, a mere handful of incidents is plenty to warrant a new law.

What is lost on both is that government does not exist to protect people against their own stupidity. Freedom means that people have a right to be irresponsible, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.

Would Kruger support a law that prohibits attractive woman from wearing miniskirts because it might distract drivers and cause an accident? By the same logic, why not ban cell phones from public spaces altogether? People might bump into one another on the sidewalk if they’re “engrossed in conversation.”

In reality, no law can ever manage to remove risk from our lives entirely. Lawmakers should resist their paternalistic urge to try to shield people from the perils of their modern day world. When the likes of Kruger and his colleagues in Arkansas start talking about the “potentially deadly dangers that lurk outside the deceptive serenity of your iPod,” the only proper response is — “Leave us alone!”

Al Qaeda Terrorist Convicted in New York

The Obama Administration’s counterterrorism policy just received a terrible setback. After a five day jury deliberation only a few blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, a civilian jury decided to convict a known Al Qaeda operative on a single count of conspiring to destroy American government property with an explosive device.

The defendant in question was a man named Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani who law enforcement experts believed played an instrumental role in Al Qaeda’s 1998 suicide bombing on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Some 224 people were killed on those attacks, among them twelve Americans.

According to American counterterrorism officials, Ahmed Ghailani was one of the operatives involved in the plot. Throughout the trial, New York prosecutors claimed that he personally bought the explosives that were used in the attack, then skipped town to Pakistan once the operation was orchestrated. He has been on the American government’s terrorist list since. Pakistani authorities managed to capture him only six years later when he was subsequently transferred to a CIA interrogation facility for questioning.

So after all of this evidence, why was Ghailani convicted on just one count?Or, to put it more dramatically, why was a member of Al Qaeda acquitted of 284 other charges, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder and terrorism?

Part of the answer concerns the lack of evidence directed against Ghailani in the first place. There was a whole lot of speculation as to his involvement but the actual proof was hard to come by. The star witness in the trial — a man named Hussein Abebe who claimed to have sold Ghailani the explosives — was excused from testifying by the presiding judge. That left a wide gap in the prosecutor’s case.

Something else that could be responsible is the nature of civilian trials in general — something that Republicans and New York legislators have been consistently hammering the Obama Administration on.

In contrast to military tribunals or military commissions that handle the bulk of war related crimes, civilian courts are governed by strict rules that provide defendants with a whole range of rights. Whereas a military commission may have permitted evidence based on CIA interrogations, civilian trials are more inclined to throw that evidence out. This is precisely what Judge Lewis A. Kaplan did with respect to Ghailani, arguing that he was tortured numerous times by the agency throughout his detention.

In the end, the trial will probably be seen as a failure by most. A terrorist being declared innocent on 284 charges while being convicted of only one leaves a bad taste in the Obama Administration’s mouth, particularly since the president has stressed his intention to continue to try captured terrorists through the regular court system.

In the end, justice was in fact served. Ghailani faces a minimum of twenty years in federal prison, with the possibility of a life sentence during his January 25 hearing.

The result wasn’t pretty, but the civilian courts did their job, convicting a killer on the one hand while upholding the rule of law in the process.