Ed Koch does the right thing

Ed Koch tells the CUNY Trustees they owe Tony Kushner an apology.

I’m old enough to remember when Ed Koch was a liberal. (Yes, we’re talking seriously old.) Since his conversion to a somewhat cranky neo-conservatism, I haven’t had much to say about him that was laudatory, or even printable.

But on a couple of occasions he’s surprised me by doing the right thing, providing the sort of joy described by Confucius in Book I of the Analects: “How pleasant it is when friends come from afar!”

In 2008 Sarah Palin’s flirtation with book-banning led Koch to endorse Obama. And now, as the prospective recipient of an honorary degree from the City University of New York, the ferociously pro-Israel Koch is denouncing the CUNY Trustees for denying a degree to Tony Kushner because of Kushner’s critical stance toward some Israeli policies.

An apology should come from the Board of Trustees for not following the dictates of simple fairness and decency when this happened, and allowing someone who deserved better treatment to be treated shabbily.

The common element in the two cases is Koch’s respect for Enlightenment values, in particular with respect to the ethics of inquiry and discourse. I try to keep my ethnic chauvinism down to a dull roar, but it’s hard to avoid seeing that as a reflection of Koch’s Jewish roots.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

23 thoughts on “Ed Koch does the right thing”

  1. Please keep the ethnic chauvinism turned way down. There are plenty of nice Jewish fascists and nice Jewish Talibs whose roots are every bit as Jewish as Ed Koch’s or Mark Kleiman’s. We’ve got a lot of Amalek in us, just like everybody else.

  2. From your link:

    Koch made clear that one reason for his support for his Obama was the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket. “She scares the hell out of me,” Koch said. “She wanted to censor books at the local library” in Wasilla, Alaska, where she was mayor, Koch said. Palin asked the librarian who refused the censorship request to resign but later relented and the librarian kept her job.

    From Big Journalism

    The story was false. Palin banned no books nor did she ask for any to be banned. But the Old Media went after the story with gusto even though it was a wildly overblown, anti-Palin fantasy. And the headlines tell the tale. The Old Media’s headlines as much as stated Palin was a book banner or asked the question in such a leading way as to make folks think she may have been a book banner.

    Now, I was not there, in Wasilla 15 years ago, and neither was Mark or Ed Koch. Who can say what really happened? We do have a instance of proposed book banning on record, and (if you dig through the Reality Based archives) Professor Kleiman’s endorsement of that ban: the Citizen’s United case.
    Like the condemnation of the Bush administration for waterboarding and the approval of the Obama administration’s order to kill bin Laden, the most interesting feature of this story is the ease with which partisans shift position.

  3. (Mark): “I try to keep my ethnic chauvinism down to a dull roar, but it’s hard to avoid seeing that as a reflection of Koch’s Jewish roots.
    (Wikipedia)” “Kagan and her family lived in a third-floor apartment at West End Avenue and 75th Street and attended Lincoln Square Synagogue.
    Kagan voted with the minority in Citizens United, to allow the FEC to ban a book. Enlightenment values my foot.
    Neither is lying.

  4. Could somebody please tell Trollbert Trollstein that Big Journalism has about as much credibility as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

  5. (Ebenezer): “Could somebody please tell Trollbert Trollstein that Big Journalism has about as much credibility as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
    Condemnations of torture and book banning, and defense of civil discourse are disposable weapons in a political contest.
    Media bias is obvious and thoroughly documented. Dan Rather and Texas Air National Guard, anyone? I’d say Breitbart won the contest over the Capitol steps Tea Party “racism” claim. He and O’Keefe and Giles clearly won the Acorn contest. Do you, Ebenezer, have independent knowledge of Mayor Palin’s communications with the Wasilla librarian?

  6. Malcolm Kirkpatrick’s right-wing post-modernism is left on this site on a “Know your enemy” basis. Back in primary reality, the story about Palin wanting the library to ban books comes from … the librarian. That’s a good enough source for me. Also in primary reality, attempts to prevent a (further) takeover of the democratic process by big money isn’t at all like book-banning.

  7. “Media bias is obvious and thoroughly documented… He and O’Keefe and Giles clearly won the Acorn contest.”

    I agree. That certainly demonstrates conservative media bias.

  8. Breitbart, Breitbart … wait, isn’t he the guy who chopped up a video to make an Ag Dept person look bad?

    Why is he still listened to? He was on the Maher show, I had to turn it off.

    Perhaps we can all agree, liars should be ostracized?

  9. Also in primary reality, attempts to prevent a (further) takeover of the democratic process by big money isn’t at all like book-banning.

    On this point, I disagree. Arguing that “any book published by a corporation can be banned” is, in the world as it is, an argument that permits book-banning. (I believe that Justice Kagan made that argument specifically and explicitly; if that’s incorrect a “you are wrong” would be appreciated.)

  10. (NGC): “Breitbart, Breitbart … wait, isn’t he the guy who chopped up a video to make an Ag Dept person look bad?
    Nope. Breitbart ran everything he received, and it actually made Mrs. Sherrod look decent. In the clip she repented her initial racist reflex and helped the white farmer. It made the NAACP audience look like racists when they audibly approved Mrs. Sherrod’s account at the point where she was going to stick it to the white guy. The point of Breitbart’s presentation was that the NAACP was in no position to be calling the Tea Party “racist”.
    You need to check your sources, and exercise a little more skepticism,

  11. (Randy): “There were plenty of other reasons to find it unacceptable to put Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the presidency.
    In 2008 Palin had more public-sector executive experience than McCain, Obama, and Biden together, more private sector experience than McCain, Obama, and Biden together. Palin had a demonstrably better understanding of the US Constitution than Biden. From the VP debate:…

    BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

    And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

    The moron apparently never read the document he swore to protect. Article I relates to the Legislative branch. The Vice President’s only Constitutionally specified duty is to serve as President of the Senate and to take the place of the President if the President dies.

  12. Some people just make shit up.

    On July 19, 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her position as Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture[1] after blogger Andrew Breitbart posted video excerpts of Sherrod’s address to a March 2010 NAACP event onto his website.[2] From these video excerpts, the NAACP condemned her remarks and U.S. government officials called on her to resign. However, upon review of the complete unedited video in full context, the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, apologized for the firing and Sherrod was offered a new position.
    Breitbart posted the excerpts shortly after the NAACP passed a resolution which called on Tea Party leaders “to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches”.[3] He alleged that some NAACP members condoned racism despite publicly opposing it. In the excerpts he posted, Sherrod, an African American woman, described her actions while employed at a private advocacy firm for African-American farmers in 1986 when a white farmer sought her help after his farm was about to be foreclosed.[4]
    The event brought to the forefront current debates regarding racism in the United States, cable news reporting, internet ideological websites, and decisions made by President Barack Obama’s administration.[4][5] The Obama administration later apologized to Sherrod, and offered her a full-time, high-level internal advocacy position with the Department,[6][7][8] which she ultimately declined.[9]
    In 2011, Sherrod brought suit against Breitbart for defamation.[10]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resignation_of_Shirley_Sherrod

  13. Malcolm– “Breitbart ran everything he received, and it actually made Mrs. Sherrod look decent.”

    It made her look so decent that he called her “racist” when he posted it.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/201007220004

    “It made the NAACP audience look like racists when they audibly approved Mrs. Sherrod’s account at the point where she was going to stick it to the white guy. ”

    No, they didn’t.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrNWw7TGkjo#t=50s

    You know, if you keep repeating lies from professional liars, people just might start calling you a liar.

  14. “In 2008 Palin had more public-sector executive experience than McCain, Obama, and Biden together, more private sector experience than McCain, Obama, and Biden together. Palin had a demonstrably better understanding of the US Constitution than Biden.”

    Speaking of morons (as you were) your constitutional scholar thinks the First Amendment protects her from being criticized. But just keep on going, believing that you and she are not morons.

  15. (Bloix): “Some people just make shit up.
    We do not disagree. All you quote conforms with what I wrote. Sherrod courageously told a story against herself. In the clip Breitbart presented, that was clear, as was the approval by the NAACP audience of her initial (racist) inclination inclination to screw the white guy. She changed her mind and helped the white farmer. Breitbart attacked the NAACP’s standing to call “racism” on anyone.

  16. (Toaster): “You know, if you keep repeating lies from professional liars, people just might start calling you a liar.
    Read your own lnk. She related how she was disinclined to help the white guy, and changed her mind. Breitbart says her “basic humanity” overcame her racially-motivated inclinations. That’s the point of her story. She’s courageously telling a story against herself. The audible audience approval occurs halfway through, when she gets to the part where she decides to screw the white guy. Breitbart’s presentation occurred in the context of the NAACP calling the Tea Party “racist”. Breitbart’s presentation was aimed at the NAACP, not at Mrs. Sherrod.

  17. (Toaster): “Speaking of morons (as you were)…
    So, you believe Article I defines the powers of the Executive branch?
    (Toaster): “…your constitutional scholar thinks the First Amendment protects her from being criticized.
    That I doubt. Link, please?
    (Kleiman): “…the story about Palin wanting the library to ban books comes from … the librarian.”
    Link please.

  18. (Bloix): “Some people just make shit up.”
    True.
    (Toaster): “…your constitutional scholar thinks the First Amendment protects her from being criticized.”
    Link, please?
    (Kleiman): “…the story about Palin wanting the library to ban books comes from … the librarian.”
    Link please?

    Tick, tick, tick…

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