Why It’s Important to Remove Failed Leaders

Andrew Cuomo has a Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to gold, that is, shiny, expensive, and useless. Bin Laden killed 3,000 people in New York on 9-11. Cuomo, through his preference for loyalists who cover up his sexual assaults over competent people, has killed 60,000 and counting in corona excess deaths – 50% more than the US-wide average. And the state let it slide, making excuses for his lying about the nursing home scandal. Eventually the sexual assault stories caught up with him, but not before every state politician preferred to extract some meaningless budget concessions instead of eliminate the killer of New Yorkers at the first opportunity. Even now they delay, not wanting to impeach; they do not believe in consequences for kings, only for subjects.

Time and time again, powerful people show that they don’t believe in accountability. After all, they might be held accountable too, one day. This cascades from the level of a mass killer of a governor down to every middle manager who excuses failure. The idea is that the appearance of scandal is worse than the underlying offense, that somehow things will get better by pretending nothing happened.

And here is the problem: bad leaders, whether they are bad due to pure incompetence or malevolence, don’t get good. People can improve at the start of their careers; leaders are who they are. They can only be thrown away, as far as down as practical, as an example. Anders Tegnell proposed herd immunity for Sweden in early 2020 and then pretended he never did, and the country remained unmasked for most of the year; deaths, while below European averages due to low Nordic levels of cohabitation, are far and away the worst in the Nordic countries, and yet Tegnell is still around, still directing an anti-mask policy. Tegnell is incompetent; Sweden is a worse country for not having gotten rid of him in late spring 2020. Cuomo is malevolent; New York is a worse state for every day that passes that he’s not facing trial for mass manslaughter and sexual assault, every day that passes that his mercenary spokespeople who attacked his victims remain employed.

This is not a moral issue. It’s a practical issue. The most powerful signal anyone can get is promotion versus dismissal (there’s also pay, but it’s not relevant to political power). When Andrew Cuomo stripped Andy Byford of responsibilities as head of New York City Transit, it was a clear signal: you can be a widely acclaimed success, but you failed to flatter the monarch and prostrate before him and this is what matters to me. Byford read the signal correctly, resigned, and ended up promoted to the head of Transport for London, because Sadiq Khan and TfL appreciate competence every bit as Cuomo does not.

Likewise, the retention of Tegnell sends a signal: keep doing what you’re doing. The same is true of Cuomo, and every other failure who is not thrown away from the public.

If anything, it’s worse for a sitting governor. Cuomo openly makes deals. The state legislators who can remove this killer from the body politic choose to negotiate, sending a clear signal: corrupt the state and be rewarded. 60,000 dead New York State residents mean little to them; many more who will die as variants come in mean even less.

The better signal is you have nothing anyone wants, go rot at Sing Sing. This is the correct way to deal with a failure even of three fewer orders of magnitude. Fortunately, there’s only one Cuomo – never before has New York had such mass man-made death. Unfortunately, incidents that are still deadly and require surgical removal of malefactors are far more common. Many come from Cuomo’s lackeys; in my field, the subway, Sarah Feinberg is responsible for around a hundred preventable transit worker deaths, and should never work in or adjacent to this field again. But apolitical managers too screw up on costs, on procurement, on maintenance, on operations, on safety – and rarely suffer for it. But then the fish rots from the head. Chop it off and move on.


  1. Sassy

    The importance of removing failed leaders is pretty clear, however, reliable methods for actually accomplishing that remain a mystery. It would seem like failed leaders remaining in power is a problem universal across all cultures, all political systems, and all points in history. The TfL might have hired Andy Byford, but the UK as a whole has had its fair share of failed leaders staying.

    People will not overthrow the government over the subway. People will not even overthrow the government over the corpses of their loved ones piled up in truck trailers like microwave dinners. Even ignoring removal from government via pitchfork, vanishingly few governors have even been removed by recall election.

    > Andrew Cuomo has a Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to gold, that is, shiny, expensive, and useless. Bin Laden killed 3,000 people in New York on 9-11. Cuomo, through his preference for loyalists who cover up his sexual assaults over competent people, has killed 60,000 and counting in corona excess deaths

    The sheer spiciness of this take, even in comparison to other hot takes in the blog, is quite next level.

    • Alon Levy

      People in California might well remove the lockdown breaker Gavin Newsom. If that happens and the state gets a Republican, or a YouTube Democrat, maybe that will discipline the party into throwing away bad leaders internally rather than closing ranks and telling people that no, really, dining with donors in flagrant violation of the governor’s own lockdown order is fine.

      • Sassy

        Believe me we’re trying to remove Newsom. As mentioned, it’s actually absurdly difficult to actual remove a failed leader from power.

        • Herbert

          Constructive vote of no confidence. Try adding it to your constitution after you add proportional representation.

          What’s the worst that could happen? Replacing an Oberleutnant Helmut with a Flakhelfer Helmut?

          Pfff… As if a Palatinatian pig stomach filled with cabbage could keep in power for more than a fewmonths…

          • Tiercelet

            Hmm, what would the idiomatic English equivalent of electing a Saumagen be? I’m thinking maybe “a ham sandwich”?

            That said, be careful with no-confidence votes and California politics. Tafelspitz managed to stay in power for eight years…

      • Chaz

        The way they will prevent this from happening is trying to scare the public of what will happen if a hardcore Republican gets into power. “You may not like us, but have you seen the other guy?!” is a longtime strategy of the Democratic Party. Throwing out a leader means you need to replace them with someone else, and in the California recall election it’s probably going to be a pro-sprawl anti-transit Republican.

        • Alon Levy

          That’s specifically a Democratic strategy of not running a heavyweight like the lieutenant governor (whose name I don’t even know). The problem is, Newsom is so bad that in a 2-1 blue state he’s polling dead even in the recall, and the party isn’t investing in any alternative, preferring that the ship go down with the captain.

          • Alon Levy

            Nope. Two questions on the same ballot: recall Newsom yes/no?, in the event of recall who should replace him?. In 2003 the Democrats’ strategy was to tell people to vote no on the Gray Davis recall but just in case vote for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in the replacement, and the recall went yes while the replacement went to Arnold Schwarzenegger. So the party thinks that the best strategy now is not to run anyone serious in the replacement, as if that was the issue in 2003, and not, say, that Arnold was unusually moderate and not really to the right of Davis or Bustamante.

        • Henry Miller

          Sometimes you need to send a message: better someone who is honestly against everything I stand for than someone who is for what I stand for but corrupt. Force the leadership to acknowledge you won’t stand for them doing this. There is always next election.

          If you are honest though, you will always be able to find something that the other party does better than your own. Focus on getting that even if it is a miner thing.

      • Lee Ratner

        People in California might review Newsome but that doesn’t mean they are going to replace him with somebody better. If anything the California recall positions will favor highly animated Republicans who will vote in somebody even worse than Newsome, an actual COVID denialist rather than just somebody who committed one act of hypocrisy.

  2. michaelrjames

    Term Limits!
    I’ve said it many times on this blog. Two is enough for anyone, and this guy wants a fourth and he won’t leave without being hauled out in handcuffs or whatever. Apparently his father had three terms which raises another issue of nepotism or assumed hereditary privileges. Oddly, the US is riddled with this stuff, from Robert Moses’ 3-4 decade rule, to J. Edgar Hoover’s 48 years. Even the sainted Anthony Fauci has been director of NIAID for 36 years; everyone including me can agree he is highly competent especially at handling political issues but seriously …
    Much tut-tutting at Putin and Xi making themselves president-for-life but the US has been doing it for a lot of its history for some running extremely powerful institutions.
    Of course two terms was already two too many with Cuomo but at least it would have limited the damage, and a different person would have been in charge for COVID-19.

    • Matthew Hutton

      The problem with term limits is that makes the lobbyists even more powerful. Still it works for President so maybe for governor too?

      • PeakVT

        Term limits for executive offices and for legislators should have different lengths. A short (8-12 years) term limit for executives is mostly a good thing, since they have so much power and large permanent workforce to direct or abuse. The same amount of time is bad for legislators, since it takes a while to learn to the details of the legislative process and of the law, and most legislators have little in the way of permanent staff to support them. However, a long term limit (24-28 years) for legislators would force turnover even in very “safe” districts, preventing legislators from becoming lifers who put the institution of the legislature before the interests of the district they serve. (I’m looking at you, Pat.) Term limits can be too short, though. The one-term limit for governor of Virginia and the 3 term limit for the California Legislature are two examples.

          • Matthew Hutton

            The other side in the US house is that if someone is a leader they probably need to do it for 3 terms, the first to work out how to do it, the second to do it and the third to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. If before becoming party leader they need 2 terms in a more junior senior leadership position and 2 terms as a committee chair, and before that maybe 1-2 terms as vice chair. So with 10 terms total after 1-2 terms really they need to be vice chair of a committee to become speaker eventually.

            So much shorter term limits than 20 years or so become pretty dangerous.

          • Alon Levy

            Obama was in the Senate 4 years and then became president. You don’t need to have gerontocrats in charge.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Obama wasn’t exactly a great President, I mean he didn’t get a lot through the senate with 59/60 democratic senators.

          • Matthew Hutton

            And both Obama and the Clintons did a terrible job of bringing in fresh blood into the Democratic Party.

          • Oreg

            It seems likely that it only takes so long to learn the ropes precisely because so many actors have been around for so long. If everyone is there for only a limited time the complexity in the system will drop.

          • Herbert

            There were a bunch of members of the Bundestag in the seventies who’d held their seat since 1949. FJS among them. FJS of course ran for chancellor unsuccessfully in 1980.

            That said, term limits would’ve replaced Merkel with something I’m not sure would’ve been better. At any rate, existing mechanisms have thus far kicked every chancellor out of office after four terms. Party / coalition internal in the case of Adenauer; losing reelection in the case of Kohl and “voluntarily” resigning in the case of Merkel…

          • Herbert

            Actually all those West Wing (TV) / Obama democrats are barely starting to run for office

        • michaelrjames

          Indeed, although I didn’t make it clear, I was talking of those in executive positions, whether elected or not.
          I don’t agree with term limits for elected MPs*, Representatives, Senators etc–only when they become the leader. Mayors, State Governors, Presidents, Prime Ministers (whether directly elected or Westminster system) should all have term limits. In my lifetime, in Oz there was Robert Menzies PM from before I was born to (well, his party) my first election, a total of 21 years of do-nothing conservative government that held Australia in the 50s. Then almost 12 years of John Howard (1996-2008) which was even worse because of toxic, divisive, xenophobic and regressive rule and hyperpartisanship (same shit wherever Murdoch has his media empire). In the UK more than a decade (11 years?) of Thatcher which … .. (and 18 years of continuous conservative rule until Blair …. groan). Germany and the EU got 17 years of Merkel which, despite all the inexplicable hype, has not been good for either; doing nothing is generally like that even if it wins elections.

          Two terms of these ‘leaders’ would have been survivable but the problem with these long reigns is not just the direct damage they do, but that they get to normalise crap policy and behaviour. Whole generations grow up knowing nothing else. If this is the best a nation can do–and voters seem to confirm the grim fact–then one can begin to understand why next-gen voters tend to be disinterested in voting.

          *30-year seat warmers aren’t necessarily a problem except where a gerrymander system like the US means permanently blue or red electorates, and the whole parliament starts filling with such people. This is more a problem with the party system and electoral system. Incidentally the NYC mayoral election probably didn’t do any favours for the popularity of Preferential Voting (Ranked Choice) because they so messed it up. Deliberately. It took them 2 weeks to count, along with errors along the way. Australian federal elections with about 3x to 4x the number of voters relative to NYC, manages to count most votes and declare most results by midnight, sometimes by 7pm (1h after end of voting), of voting day.

          • Tom the first and best

            Menzies was only PM for 17 continuous years (19 years in total, he was PM 1939-41 as well, until removed by his own party/coalition, who were subsequently thrown out mid-term by the crossbench) because he was able to scrape through 1961 and then change tack with economic policy to regain electoral support. Menzies likely only won in 1961 because party names were not on the ballot paper allowing the DLP to achieve a higher rate of preference flows to the Coalition in the closest seats that would not have occurred with party names on the ballot paper.

            Steady as she goes conservative political leadership, such as under Menzies or Merkel, is a style the Coalition/CDU would have implemented in a similar way under most other leadership options at the time.

          • michaelrjames

            Tom: “Menzies was only PM for 17 continuous years ”

            Yes. Which is why I said the 21 years was of conservative rule. It did fall apart after he left though like when Thatcher left (was deposed) the Tories got another 6 years (unexpected) rule. Menzies is the last PM to have retired from office on his terms. All the others lost at general election or were deposed by their own party (or drowned at sea!).

            “Steady-as-you-go” is not what the world needs, especially in the last 50-60 years as the world has speeded up in ways that politicians and voters can’t keep pace with. Biden looks like he is reverting to steady-as-you-go, including obdurance on the filibuster ffs. I thought he had learned from his Obama years. But old dogs/new tricks …
            IMO Merkel was a disaster for Europe, not in a clearly overt way but in a structural long-term, significant way, ie. the most significant way. That also means she will be bad for Germany too, eventually, even if German voters believe the sole purpose of the EU is to be preyed upon to their national and personal advantage. Europe and Germany (and many other members but ….) have been in desperate need of real leadership for a long time now.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Biden doesn’t have the votes to overturn the filibuster. I believe he’s three short.

          • michaelrjames

            The filibuster rule can be amended by a simple majority. Perhaps you mean that Biden can’t convince/intimidate/cajole/threaten Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema? Otherwise known as lack of leadership. At the very least they should bring back the rule that a senator must actually filisbuster rather than simply threaten to.
            Meanwhile Mitch McConnell threatens to “go nuclear” if they remove the filibuster! As if he doesn’t already do it. As usual the Dems are pathetic and bring a knife to a gunfight.
            It’s the same all over the Anglosphere, or at least where Murdoch operates: UK & Australia have oppositions refuse to hold the conservative governments to account (for fear of Murdoch).

          • adirondacker12800

            The President doesn’t make Senate rules. The Senate does.

          • Tom the first and best

            The EU is being undermined by inter-governmentalism asserting itself over parliamentary democracy and policy results thereof. Was Merkel part of that? Yes. Would alternative German Chancellors in her second two terms have been part of that? Most probably, governments are not usually the source of actions to disempower that government without significant external pressure (from vested interests and/or voters). Did the newly elected EU Parliament, the institution that has most to gain from fighting inter-governmentalism and therefore the most likely to, fail to stand up to inter-governmentalism when it needed to when Von Der Leyen was nominated for President of the EU Commission? Yes.

          • michaelrjames

            TomTFAB: “The EU is being undermined by inter-governmentalism asserting itself over parliamentary democracy and policy results thereof.”

            I’m not sure I understand. Sounds a bit Brexity, ie. the complaint. The EU is a union of about 40 ‘states’ so inter-governmentalism is kinda its thing and raison d’etre. I think it is seriously needed for the EU because the big problems are all transnational, or at least where the solutions lie, eg. environmental like climate change, tax equity issues (multinationals tax avoidance) and regulation of social media and big-tech etc. The EU is doing pretty well on many of these things which is a bit surprising, but good. Of course it does tend a bit to dirigisme and arguably needs more grassroots democratic input but OTOH we see how that works or doesn’t for the US. But maybe I have made the wrong interpretation of your post?

            As for changing leaders, one never knows if it will solve the unsolved problems but what we can be fairly sure of is that if problems are unsolved after two terms, or got worse, another two terms of the same person is very unlikely to help. Incidentally Viktor Orban is into his third consecutive (fourth total) term and looks to be going on, ie. getting worse, more authoritarian. Both Hungary and the EU definitely didn’t need more than two terms of this bloke.

          • Tom the first and best

            I should have worded my comment more clearly. My comment was not an anti-European Union comment, it was a pro-European Parliament having more power comment. The EU is a good idea, it just needs more democracy at a European level. Said democracy issues are exploited by Eurosceptics, who have a very wrong solution to a genuine problem.

            Intergovernmentalism, when talking about the EU, is a form of making decisions for the EU by the member-state governments (or representatives thereof), rather than European Parliament style-institutions. Charles de Gaulle was a key proponent of this, messing up European integration. The way the EU Commission is set up, in practice, is a prime example of this: A commissioner from almost each member-state, in practice chosen by the member-state`s government, nominated by the EU Council and approved by the EU Parliament. The EU Parliament should use it ability to reject the EU Council`s choice, in favour of their own, to make the EU`s executive branch practically chosen by the directly by and from EU Parliament (like most to all member-states` executive branches are (at least de-facto) (Charles de Gaulle`s messed up 5th Republic constitution being the main semi-exception), not like the US system of directly elected executives). If Germany`s executive branch was chosen in the same way as the EU Commission headed by Von Der Leyen was chosen, with the Lander in place of the EU`s member-states, the Chancellor would be a cast of minister from North Rhine-Westphalia or Bavaria with a federal minister from each Lander and the Bundestag just rubber stamping it (all be it by a narrow margin). (For an Australian version replace North Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria with New South Wales and Victoria and the Bundestag with the House of Reps, although with multiple ministers per state, as Australia has only 6 states).

          • Tom the first and best

            Also, I do not think that the replacement of Victor Orbán by Fidesz (the party he leads) would be at all likely to create any significant improvement, indeed it might may the situation worse.

          • michaelrjames

            @TomTFAB: “Also, I do not think that the replacement of Victor Orbán by Fidesz (the party he leads) would be at all likely to create any significant improvement, indeed it might may the situation worse.”

            But at least it is change. And it may indeed need to get worse briefly before it can get better. Orbán has enough political and leadership skills to keep the thing going. A new incompetent leader would tip the political balance in the country back to something more normal.

            I don’t think you’re really arguing against term limits, are you? Orbán would probably try to do a Putin but that would have had its own consequences, including at the EU level. Orbán, Thatcher, Cuomo, Menzies, Howard and now Xi. I just can’t see how limiting one particular toxic leader isn’t a lot better; in fact some of these are only toxic because they stay on and grow worse. Even Hawke; if your scenario happened the silver lining is that we would not have had Howard and though Hewson was a quasi-Thatcherite dry at the time (I wasn’t in Oz then; today he looks like a great moderate) it would surely be 1000% better than the lying rodent, at whose feet I lay the blame for all the subsequent instability and appalling governance and the notion of what good government is, and the entrenched middle-class welfare that seems impossible to shift.

            BTW, it’s essentially a branch of Darwinism. Change is needed for evolution, some of which is bad and is culled. In this time of great change in the ‘environment’ it is needed more than ever. As it, few people believe we’re not heading towards a human civilisation extinction event. The planet will be the winner and we will win a Darwin Award!

          • Alon Levy

            There’s this really good post by Alex Harrowell, who sometimes comments here, about criticism of the EU. See his essay on populism for A Fistful of Euros, and his blog post about euroskepticism. What he points out is that euroskepticism isn’t just criticism of the EU, or even criticism of the EU that doesn’t explicitly call for more EU empowerment (which I do, all the time). It’s a type of anti-everything populism, about affectation more than anything.

            So saying that the EU has problems because it’s intergovernmental and not supranationsl, besides calling for more EU power, can’t possibly be euroskepticism or populism. Even the reverse isn’t (intergovernmentalism is EPP’s position!). It’s normal for a pro-regime opposition to oppose the coalition’s head, in this case von der Leyen, and to propose alternative governance mechanism. Even Syriza is largely pro-regime and has a vision of the EU that does not impose spending caps rather than one in which it doesn’t exist as in the Tory or Gilet Jaune vision.

          • Lee Ratner

            @michaeljames, it is hard enough to get average people to do things they don’t want to do like take a vaccine that will save their lives. It is infinitely harder to get powerful like Senators to do what they don’t want to do, in this case get rid of the filibuster. Saying that this is because of a lack of leadership is literally the Green Lantern Theory where all failures are because of a lack of will rather than the impossibility of the task.

          • Oreg

            @michaelrjames: I also believe that Merkel was not good for Germany, if maybe for a different reason. She is the embodiment of steady-as-she-goes politics. Unlike her predecessor she never had a reform vision when the country urgently needs to be reformed to tackle climate change and manage industrial change. Instead her governments put the breaks on renewables, phase out coal much too slowly and have not done nearly enough for rail. On the other hand, she has excelled in dealing with immediate crises like the pandemic and with far-right populist leaders like Berlusconi, Trump, Orban, Kaczynski etc.

            > IMO Merkel was a disaster for Europe
            > German voters believe the sole purpose of the EU is to be preyed upon to their national and personal advantage.
            Would you elaborate on those two statements?

          • Tom the first and best

            Term limits for individuals are underestimation of party ideology as a cause of problems, term limits for parties is purely undemocratic. Term limits for individuals are also less viable in a parliamentary system, where individual parts of executive are easier kept on a short leash, as compared to a presidential system.

            The main problem with Xi he is part of the CCP who the Chinese people didn`t vote in and can`t vote out. Term limits are an entirely secondary or even tertiary consideration.

      • Alon Levy

        In New York City, the imposition of term limits generally had a positive effect, imposing an up-or-out system on City Council and ending the situation of incumbents-for-life in a system with a democratic deficit that would stun the Council of Ministers.

        • Matthew Hutton

          Just as a last post before you ban me.

          Singapore is a much, much better run city than New York.

          And also I’d say London was a better run city than New York City, especially given London’s lack of freedom to raise taxes.

          • Steve

            Singapore, undoubtedly. At the cost of democracy, but LKY is practically a prototype of a benevolent dictator, and his successors have done decently. London… not so sure. They build more, at lower cost, but the city government doesn’t have the power to change anything of substance, and they have the same inequality issues as most financial capitals have seen accelerate this last decade.

          • Alon Levy

            The Lee clan is a great example of people who should have been removed a generation ago for mismanaging people’s pensions (“Minimum Sum”) and, more recently, dabbling in extreme racism and homophobia to distract people from said pension mismanagement.

            It’s so weird how people speak so favorably of such a poorly-run place. I’ve met consultants who are surprised when I tell them the construction costs of the Thomson Line are among the highest in the world. Singapore performs competence in a way that plays to middle-class Thatcherite expectations, so it must be competent; who are people to believe, the Lee clan or their lying eyes?

          • Tom the first and best

            Singapore is run an entrepreneurial autocrats, a significant step up from the more common rent-seeker autocrats, because they genuinely compete on various international markets (the industries they have, capital, skilled labour, etc.), they do what is needed to compete there and many of the markets they compete in are run by upper and middle class Thatcherites, so things are designed to look good to such people. A more effective Democracy would better serve ordinary Singaporeans and fortunately they do have elections that are trending like that might happen one day.

          • Matthew Hutton

            At least in Singapore you have to save 30% of your income into your social fund so it should work for at least the top half of people.

            In Britain everyone under 45 or so who doesn’t work in the public sector or who isn’t in the top 5% of incomes is basically completely fucked. And paying the rent for retired people in the bottom 95% who don’t own their own home is going to bankrupt us.

    • adirondacker12800

      People can change who is in office. There are these things called elections.

      • michaelrjames

        You know perfectly well, adirondacker, that it doesn’t work like that in NY, city or state, where it is essentially one-party rule. It’s why Cuomo is trying to hang on–because he knows that if he survives this, the party will normally allow him to surf thru. Anyone who wins the primary is the next mayor or guv. OK, this blow-up looks different and you think his goose is cooked but I wouldn’t be so sure. Voters with memories of goldfish and corrupt parties freed from competing with anyone else …

        Of course, it has come to my notice that perhaps adirondacker votes (federally) for Stefanik !?

        • Sassy

          > the party will normally allow him to surf thru

          This suggests that parties should be forced to always run primary elections instead of just picking the incumbent.

          • adirondacker12800

            It’s silly to have elections with only one candidate. Or elections where almost on one shows up because there is only one candidate.

          • michaelrjames

            Sassy: “This suggests that parties should be forced to always run primary elections instead of just picking the incumbent.”

            Is that so bad? Anyway, not an issue if there were term limits …

            But there are a surprising number of apologists for poor leaders/governance. As usual in the Anglosphere, we get the politicians we deserve.

          • Tiercelet

            The parties do run primaries, if there’s anyone willing to stand against the machine candidate. But the tsunamis of money thrown against any non-machine candidate are of such vast scale to make the Great Wave Off Kanagawa look like a ripple. That’s over and above all the other smoke-filled-back-room tricks that party establishments can use to ensure their continued dominance–see https://twitter.com/schwarz/status/989997079551528960?lang=en for some classic examples…

        • adirondacker12800

          Pesky pesky democracy. New York has a fusion ballot. I can vote for the Republican on the Conservative line. I haven’t but I could. I’ve voted for the Republican on the Democratic line, in local elections, when the rumors floating around are that the Tea Party members are going to vote Conservative. Pity that other parties can’t scare up candidates for local offices.


          Handsy Andy has been on other lines besides the Democratic. In 2010 my choice was Cuomo or Paladino. I’d leave the choice blank before I’d vote for Paladino, the Independence Party is some flavor of whackjob, so I voted Working Families.
          Handsy Andy was getting some from the cable TV star back and then and apparently wasn’t grabby. The Rent Is Too Damn High candidate was amusing. And he was getting it wrong, the Pay Is Too Damn Low.

          Stefanik has only been around for six years. As conference chair she gets on the TeeVee more often, to stick her foot in her mouth, again. 2022 is going to be interesting.

          • adirondacker12800

            The assembly has said will it be considering it. At the very least a committee has to accept the Attorney General’s report as evidence and staff has to write up articles of impeachment. The committee then has to recommend submitting it to the Assembly and then they can vote on it. It’s a pity they don’t swing into action at the snap of your fingers.
            In the mean time President Biden has called on him to resign, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Lieutenant Governor Horchul, members of Congress, the Assembly. State Senate, the state Democratic chair and more. I’m sure restaurants in Albany are busy this afternoon.

          • michaelrjames

            The US is approaching the status of a failed state and your pesky democracy is on its deathbed. It is coding in the ER as Dems wring their hands over process and fake bipartisanship, and one of its failed leaders wants to run for a 4th term!

            Many issues that are screeched as divisive (not just Murdoch, McConnell but by Manchin et al, who idiotically are labelled “moderates”!) yet many such issues have 70% support amongst the total electorate. Like access to healthcare, gun control, drug price control, financial regulation, fairer wages etc. Your pesky democracy is unable to deliver. After the Sandy Hook massacre, “bipartisan legislation requiring background checks for gun sales was supported by 86% of Americans and 54 senators but blocked by 46 senators representing just 38% of the country.” The next thing to get the treatment will be Roe-v-Wade. Which may not be a bad thing because it may lead to real insurrection. I mean what does it take? Apparently an insurrection to take over the Capitol wasn’t enough.

            Representational fairness is even more dire in the US Senate, which gives disproportionate power to older, whiter, more rural and more conservative interests. Right now, states representing just 17% of the nation’s population could elect a majority of senators. By 2040, the 15 most populous states will be home to 67% of Americans yet represented by just 30% of the Senate. Add up the actual votes received in the winning election of every sitting US senator, and Republicans haven’t won a senate majority since the mid-1990s. Yet they’ve controlled the Senate for 10 of the last 20 years, and used that advantage to shape the ideological balance on the federal courts

            It is well beyond the time that Biden and the Dems went “nuclear”.

    • borners

      Terms length issues aren’t even in the Top ten things wrong with US Gubernatorial/local government. The first is FTPT and how it interacts with Presidential/Governor direct elections, it means two-party politics which worked okay in the Northern US till the rise of the “Conservative movement” in the 1970’s but at the cost of racist redlining etc/low welfare provision. Now with ideologically polarised nationalised parties you have no ability to discipline incompetence in non-swing states. Heck Singapore is probably better response to elections/public opinion shifts than US local government.

      Other stuff would be that US has too many “elected” offices and too many layers to give voters real choices and primaries are rubbish. Plus vetocracy. And that then reflects into weak bureaucratic capacity since each layer comes with patronage. And US state constitutions have become almost as unamendable as the national one, so no-one can repair the system.

      • Korakys

        Exactly. There should be four elections: for local/community board member, for district/city/municipal councillor, for provincial/state assembly/house party, and for national parliament/congress party. Each local board, city council, state assembly, national congress would then elect its own alderman/mayor/governor/president. No referendums (or at least only very ones and only about constitutional issues), no direct democracy, no recalls, no voting for judges, attorneys-general, dog catchers, school boards, etc. Just four votes, one to cover every level of government (five in the EU).

      • michaelrjames

        borners: “Terms length issues aren’t even in the Top ten things wrong with US Gubernatorial/local government.”

        Maybe so. But in the current context it would have prevented this Cuomo clusterfk, and possibly a better response to Covid.

      • ericson2314

        Yes went to reply the same. So many in the US waste braincells on debating the nuances term limits when the should be learning about proportional representation.

      • Nilo

        It’s very underrated how almost every US state has a worse constitution than the federal one, given that the federal one was written with a bunch of significant errors!

        I think the only constitution better right now than the federal one is Nebraska’s, which at least abolished the bicameral legislature.

    • Korakys

      For elected politicians at least I don’t generally agree with term limits; instead individuals shouldn’t be elected in the first place, voters should select a party instead of a person. This would mean much larger electoral districts but honestly I don’t see this as much of a problem.

      With parties the leaders, like Governor, are “elected” by the party or parties that win the majority and in practice they are much less “eccentric” and more stable and sensible than directly elected leaders.

      • ericson2314

        Yes, I think many people in the US think voting for parties are at best some sort of necessary evil to overcome FPTP, and not the positive good it actually is. Voting for individuals for something as inherently collective as politics is a colossal inefficiency in general, and perpetuates bad non-ideological notions of politics in particular.

        • borners

          Canada partially gets around this by having distinct party systems for the provinces. That’s why Vancouver and Calgary have better transit and Tod than comparable American cities, local conservative parties couldn’t just stay in power with culture war polarization they needed some good governance certainly until post-Reform party generation took over in the early 2000’s.

  3. Phake Nick

    Is it a good idea to support a bad incompetent leader over a bad competent leader, so that they are incompetent in doing bad things?

    • Alon Levy

      No, because the badness is often bundled into the incompetence. Orbán is an anti-Semite, a homophobe, and a Nazi sympathizer; he is also corrupt and siphons EU infrastructure money into cronies, keeping Hungary’s construction costs as possibly the EU’s highest. A more competent right-wing racist – let’s call him Kurz – doesn’t need to invent Soros conspiracy theories and egg on lynch mobs and can even retain power democratically.

      • Tom the first and best

        Orbán is a leading example of the corrosive results of decades of authoritarian rule. The Communist dictatorship`s authoritarianism seems to have had a significantly greater lasting impact than its egalitarian principals, unlike democratic Austria. Before that was right-wing authoritarian dictatorship under Admiral Horthy (with a short even more right-wing postscript). And the pre-1919 Hungarian Parliament had a much more restricted franchise than the last decade of the pre-1919 Austrian Parliament.

        I suspect that the right-wing vote in Austria has been increased as a proportion of the vote by Austria`s tougher citizenship laws excluding many people who would otherwise be not particularly right-wing voters, exacerbated by EU Citizenship allowing citizenship grade work rights without national and state voting rights.

        • Eric2

          In retrospect I think it was a major mistake to punish (Austria-)Hungary after WW1 by leaving so many Hungarian-majority areas outside the borders of Hungary (see map. As a result Hungary is perpetually aggrieved and prone to populism.

          Germany had a similar problem, and look how many million people had to die for it to be fixed.

          • borners

            Ireland has a similar problem and even under De Valera at his worst wasn’t anywhere as bad as Orban in practice.

          • fjod

            Well I mean thousands of people did die in the Troubles, so it wasn’t all plain sailing.

          • borners

            I was think more De Valera’s conduct during the War which was basically like Finland under Kekkonen, trampling on liberties but not hard enough to destroy its democracy permanently in the name of keeping youself out of Great Power politics. Oh and the “sorry the Fuhrer is dead, I hate the British so much” letter.

  4. Tom the first and best

    The separately (from the legislature) and individually* elected head of state and government presidential/gubernatorial system, such as used in New York state, is overly prone to promoting leader loyalty as the leader has a fixed tenure and is very hard to remove compared to a Prime Minister/Premier/Chief Minister/First Minister. In other presidential systems, this fixed tenure has likely significantly contributed to coups (e.g. a Prime Minister Allende could have been democratically removed by a majority of the Chilean Parliament, likely avoiding all 17 years of military dictatorship and increasing the ability if Chileans to remove failed leaders in the 1970s and 1980s).

    It is not even entirely about the legislative-executive split. The electoral college is a a wasted opportunity, a standing electoral college could have the power to choose and dismiss the president as it so votes, allowing the removal of bad presidents much more easily (possibly removing George W. Bush after Katrina, potentially without making Chaney president). This is not to endorse the malapportionment of the Electoral College, its origin as the means of applying the Three-Fifths Compromise to the Presidency and Vice-Presidency or the non-proportional electoral systems used for it by all states.

    * I know the Vice-President is directly elected with the same electoral college election and has a legislative role (with some states having a similar system for the lieutenant-governor) but that is clearly secondary to the campaigning (and in the case of the Vice-President is significantly reduced by the Filibuster).

    • adirondacker12800

      The filibuster is an internal rule of the Senate. The Senate can decided to change it. I lean towards going back to making them actually debate on the floor.

      • Tom the first and best

        I am aware that the Filibuster is just a rule that the Senate can and previously has decided to change. I am in favour of them scrapping it. My comment was on the effect of the Filibuster on the significance of the Vice-President`s role, compared with what it would be if the VP`s casting vote was used more often because of a higher number of tied votes due to ordinary legislation being able to be fully progressed on majority votes in the even numbered Senate, not a commentary on the pros and cons of its existence.

    • Tom the first and best

      A correction to my comment of a hypothetical Chilean Prime Minister Allende :

      Constitutionally removed by a parliamentary majority, rather than fully democratically removed (particularly given CIA/ASIS involvement). A PM Allende may also have been more careful of maintaining a majority position by the need to maintain a parliamentary majority.

      • Alon Levy

        This really isn’t about electoral systems. Israel is parliamentary but Likud let and still lets Netanyahu do whatever and it took years of defections and four elections in two years to get him out. It’s really about dethroning executives through internal actions as soon as they engage in corruption or just generally fail. And this applies not just to politicians but also civil servants like Tegnell or incompetent American rail managers (but I repeat myself).

        • Tom the first and best

          A parliamentary system is certainly no guarantee of internal action to dethrone failing executives, however it does increase the chances. In Australia we have had a succession of Prime Ministers sacked by internal action for real or perceived failures since 2010, in a way sufficiently harder in a presidential system that it would happen much less.

          • michaelrjames

            In fact Parliamentary systems can be the worst, for the reasons you give. We may have had exceptional instability since 2010 but arguably that was a parliamentary system working properly–in that most of those deposed PMs were deserving of it (Gillard excepted). And the current one, Morrison (“Scotty from Marketing”, he was a previous marketer) might be the fifth in 11 years because he has royally screwed up response to Covid too; and like Cuomo still playing Covid for the political leverage … (For non-Australians, you need to know it is the state premiers who ‘saved’ Australia while the things the feds are responsible for, quarantine, aged-care homes and ordering the vaccines have been utter failures.)

            The thing I am complaining most about are the so-called competent PMs who had far too long a period in power; about 15 years (21y for his party) for Menzies and 12 years for Howard. Even Bob Hawke, often proclaimed the best PM Australia had at least in the post-war period, won 3 elections which was followed by another Labor term by Paul Keating who was the real intellect. There’s a good case that it would have been better for two terms of Hawke and two terms of Keating–which is what would have happened had Hawke honoured his agreement to hand over to PK after two terms! Which is reminiscent of Blair’s promise to Gordon Brown which was also broken and arguably may have been better for the UK. Instead Gordon took over when everything was turning to shit via the GFC. (Gordon was the first non-English, non-Oxford, non-PPE PM since … forever.)

            And then there’s the 17 years of Merkel (who is elected by her party, not the voters, right?).

          • Tom the first and best

            Hawke and Keating both had the pros and cons, term limits don`t strike me as having a huge benefit. Had Keating been PM since 1987, he would have been less likely to win both 1990 and 1993.

            Harold Wilson, while he did go to Oxford, was a much bigger challenge to the establishment. James Callahan did not go to University. Every PM from Wilson to Major was state educated. Brown was the 7th PM born in Scotland, Tony Blair the 6th, although Brown was more Scottish than Blair.

          • borners

            @michaelrjames FFS stop pretending you actually know Britain as much as you dislike it. Major was the son of a circus performers our only working class Tory PM. Thatcher and May were both Oxford non-PPE but from genuine Middle Class (middle 50% of income distribution) class backgrounds. Britain is a bourgeois country not an aristocratic one. It has become more unequal since Thatcher and PM’s reflect that to a degree. Although the current Parliament is the least Oxbridge, least private school one ever, both in itself and within the Tory party. Curiously it hasn’t made the Tory better.

            Also Brown was always going to fail as PM, the New Labour mix was sensible for getting back to power in the 1990’s, but they were sitting on a bunch of timebombs, some of which they had helped along. In particular that dismantling the unitary British nation state experiment of 1914-2001 would provoke a backlash in England at a time of EU expansion, mass immigration etc. Brown’s response is still to this day dismantle England so it can be part of a Britain of “nations and regions”. Scottish Nationalists and Unionists are different types of the same attitude, England exists to pay for everything, take the blame for everything and so make Scotland great. Wales is the same. Ever since 1979 in the aftermath of the first Scottish/Welsh referendums UK has been polarized on national lines with the Tories as the de facto English national Party and like the SNP they can win a plurality easily. British politics isn’t about competence but national identities with a defunct British Labour/Socialist movement pretending otherwise because to do would be to admit its a failure because it is. Japan has never had the left in power and their welfare state as about as good as the British one and public services miles better.

          • michaelrjames


            I know all that. And I wasn’t suggesting all PMs were all those things. However, of the previous ten PMs (back to Edward Heath), 8 had Oxford degrees, 3 had PPEs. In the truly glorious current Tory rule since 2010, the last 3 Tory PMs were all Oxford and two of them were Old Etonians (and members of the Bullingdon Club) and Cameron was a Oxford-PPE (as was his Treasurer and several more of the finance ministry etc). The current treasurer (Chancellor of the Exchequer) Rishi Sunak is a PPE, like 2 of 3 predecessors (Phil Hammond & George Osborne, another notorious Bullingdon Clubber) with the odd one out being his immediate predecessor Sajid Javid (sniff, only had the equivalent, Economic & Law from U Exeter, no wonder he is out …).

            If you think class and privilege doesn’t pervade British politics and most institutions you are seriously deluding yourself. Also missing the point when you mention those who came from middle-class backgrounds (Major, arguably Thatcher) because they get co-opted as they climb the greasy pole. Indeed, just in the last honours list, Sarah Gilbert and Adrian Hill, behind the Oxford-AZ vaccine (and at my Oxford Wellcome Trust institute back in the day) are now Dame Sarah and Sir Adrian.

            Of course we have had at least four Australian PMs with Oxford-PPEs including two of the last 3 (Abbott & Turnbull). Let’s not forget Rupert Murdoch, nor Bill Clinton. Or perhaps Pete Buttigieg (I mean Ivy League plus Oxford-PPE, you can understand why he feels destined for the top job one day)! Though these foreigners aren’t necessarily co-opted, perhaps the two years in Oxford is simply not enough and instead seems to generate some disdain (or pure hatred in the case of Rupert, one of his few good points; he was offered a Lordship by Maggie but declined) and likewise Bob Hawke and Bill Clinton. No accident that the prime suck-up in this group is Tony village-idiot Abbott which shows you where actual talent and intellect lead …. even as it still helps them climb that pole.

            Also, you can choose to believe it is just rabid anti-British foreign filth like me who dislike all this but most criticism comes from Brits:

            PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain
            Oxford University graduates in philosophy, politics and economics make up an astonishing proportion of Britain’s elite. But has it produced an out-of-touch ruling class?
            Andy Beckett, 23 February 2017

            More than any other course at any other university, more than any revered or resented private school, and in a manner probably unmatched in any other democracy, Oxford PPE pervades British political life. From the right to the left, from the centre ground to the fringes, from analysts to protagonists, consensus-seekers to revolutionary activists, environmentalists to ultra-capitalists, statists to libertarians, elitists to populists, bureaucrats to spin doctors, bullies to charmers, successive networks of PPEists have been at work at all levels of British politics – sometimes prominently, sometimes more quietly – since the degree was established 97 years ago.

          • Oreg

            > And then there’s the 17 years of Merkel (who is elected by her party, not the voters, right?).
            It’s been “only” 16 years: 4 elections * 4 years. The chancellor is elected by parliament.

          • borners

            You’ve literally just described elite universities in general, including your beloved French elite. Britain and England are not especially egalitarian societies, but our class systems are much more diverse and vagariated than a simple Bullingdon blah blah.

            I don’t think you’re filth, just a coward who’d rather engage a generic Guardianista version of the Westminister conspiracy* than British electoral politics and society as it is. The Tories win because they are better at dealing with society as it is whereas Labour wants it to be 1945 (or 1997) forever, that’s why they lose. And that you spend most of your descriptions of British through a Parliamentary palace politics prism is pretty damning. And “teh voters are stupid” is just as bad. I’m actually more critical than you and more revolutionary, until the UK is broken and England is freed from the psychological damage of decades of Celtic and British socialist gaslighting and deadnaming the Tories can rule forever because at least they abuse/bully/annoy the enemies of England.

            You need scapegoat for why Australia isn’t France I get it, but you’d be better off looking at the share of GDP and employment in mining and agriculture than talking about Prime ministerial educations. Oh and retiree politics (my family is from the Gold Coast so I know that much).

            *There are many versions of the Westminister conspiracy all them rubbish dodges for responsibility which is society wide, Nationalists and Unionists, leftists and reactionaries etc. My home borough doesn’t get its way much, Parliament is more like the country than its like Westminister.

          • michaelrjames


            Well, at one level I am glad we agree. So it turns out you are simply being defensive in that Little Englander fashion that gets on anyone else’s nerves. I’m an equal-opportunity ‘coward’ because I have deep criticisms of most of the Anglosphere, with a little extra sauce on top for the Brits because …

            If you’ve lived at the Gold Coast then that explains a few things because they are amongst the most ignorant uninformed but opinionated, whingeing entitled sods in the entire Anglosphere; think Florida retirement belt!

            who’d rather engage a generic Guardianista version of the Westminister conspiracy* than British electoral politics and society as it is.

            I tried that when I lived there but as any Remainer found out (or advocate of Alternative Vote, or anything but FPTP) the wall of ignorance and obduracy is a brick wall. The very problem is “British electoral politics and society as it is” and it needs tearing down to the ground before rebuilding. Money may be the operative factor elsewhere in the Anglosphere but add in inherited privilege, or the privileged rewarding their BFFs (or younger brothers!) from Oxford or Eton days with undeserved seats in the House of Lords not to mention the persistence of the undemocratic Lords, plus support for the very apex of this steaming pile of privilege, the Royal Family and it becomes an utterly repellant fortress resistant to any rational logic or argument. Perhaps the cherry (or blowfly?) on the top of the steaming pile is financialisation which reached its nadir in the City and spread like the pandemic virus it is to the rest of the world (especially the Anglosphere) and which of course gives an outrageous advantage to those same privileged with their assets and access to free debt to buy yet more assets. Bit by bit successful recreating a version of neofeudal ‘society’.

            This is why, on balance, it is a good thing you have done the Darwin Award-winning thing of taking yourself out of the EU. From the EU p.o.v. it’s cauterising a wound, even amputating a putrefying limb to save the corps. De Gaulle was astoundingly correct half a century ago! And I really didn’t believe that until the evidence built up over decades and became undeniable.

  5. adirondacker12800

    has killed 60,000 and counting in corona excess deaths – 50% more than the US-wide average.

    I realize anything west of 10th Ave, is in the wild hinterlands as is anything north of Harlem but states all across the country are trying really realllllly hard to surpass NY’s death’s per 100,000 and aiming for New Jersey’s. New Jersey still has a higher death rate than NY. Like it did when you first couldn’t see past Manhattan. Is that you can’t see people in Mississippi or that they don’t count? Or even the ones in New Jersey?


    Sarah Feinberg is responsible for around a hundred preventable transit worker deaths

    And how were the people staffing the hospitals, ambulances, labs etc supposed to get to work? And get home after a long shift? And cops and firemen and garbage collectors and supermarket workers and … There are lots of people in the world who do things that don’t involve typing on a computer keyboard.

    The better signal is you have nothing anyone wants, go rot at Sing Sing.

    The chant is “Lock her up”

    Misdemeanors usually involve a fine.

    • Alon Levy

      Yes, DeSantis is a murderer too. And so far Cuomo is a bigger murderer.

      Excess deaths in New Jersey and New York State are the same, 36%; New Jersey has a higher reported death rate. And this is in context of a lot of transmission between the two states – and city excess death rates were higher (63%!), so it’s if anything Cuomo that infected Jersey more than Murphy that infected the city. Murphy failed miserably and the state leg should impeach him too over this, but I’m not convinced he should subsequently be prosecuted and imprisoned, whereas Cuomo should.

      TWU workers got confirmed corona infections at six times the citywide rate in the first wave. They died at the same rate as the city, which Abbey Collins (who pooh-poohed masks well into April, as did Cuomo) was trying to push to me as a talking point, except that TWU workers are by definition workers and the deaths are concentrated among retirement-age people. Feinberg’s contribution was to focus on her witchhunt against homeless people and completely ignore ongoing best practices for cleaning and, as it became clear fomites were not a significant infection source, dealing with person-to-person transmission (i.e. through masks, which Cuomo pooh-poohed because de Blasio got there first and if de Blasio says up is up then Cuomo says up is down).

      • adirondacker12800

        It’s a pity he wasn’t as omniscient as you. And it’s a pity he’s living someplace with investigations and courts and juries.

          • adirondacker12800

            I’m not going to check all 50 states. As far as I know the only punishment an impeachment can impose is removal from office.

  6. Eric2

    “Cuomo, through his preference for loyalists who cover up his sexual assaults over competent people, has killed 60,000 and counting in corona excess deaths – 50% more than the US-wide average”

    The official covid death toll in NY state is around 54,000 and excess deaths make it a bit higher, maybe 61,000. So it appears you hold Cuomo responsible for every single death that has occurred in his state (not just the 6,000-10,000 deaths in nursing homes, many of which might be the result of his dubious nursing home policy). Has it crossed your mind that by the same logic every single national head of state (except for a few microstates) is also a mass murderer? The head of New Zealand has killed 26 people, the head of Taiwan has killed 806 people. I guess both of them are horrible people who deserve to go to jail? Meanwhile, Dr. Alon Levy gets to sit high and mighty because they have never killed anyone, unlike the bloodthirsty leaders of New Zealand and Taiwan. Of course that’s because Alon Levy has never had any decision-making power one way or another, but let’s not let little details get in the way of a good rant.

        • michaelrjames

          Alon may exaggerate but they’re not wrong on the culpability issue. Not least because NY had 1-2 months warning to prepare; their pandemic came one month later than Europe which was one month after China. And then the utter bullshit internal politics, eg. on masks, is quite unforgivable.

          On the deaths elsewhere, Oz has had about 1,000 deaths (most from the first phase and shocking cockups on cruise ships, quarantine failures and aged-care failures) however there have been extraordinarily few deaths from influenza & colds, approx. 2,000 fewer (actually we’re almost thru a second season so make that ≈4,000). So the net effect is these leaders have saved several thousand not even counting Covid deaths like in Europe and US. So no, most leaders in the Asia-Pacific don’t have a death toll to be held accountable for. Your equivalency is absurd.

          • Eric2

            I agree that Cuomo has been a pretty bad leader regarding covid. But let’s keep a sense of proportion. Except possibly for the nursing homes thing (which needs more investigation – I doubt Cuomo himself came up with the idea to free up hospital space by sending recovering covid patients to nursing homes – who did and how did they sell it to him?) Cuomo has been rather bad by the standards of Democratic politicians, but quite good by the standards of Republican politicians who to this very day are spread out on the spectrum of denialism. And a lot of the key decisions regarding covid in the US were completely out of the hands of Cuomo and other state leaders – border policy and everything to do with the CDC are federal not state responsibilities, and let’s not forget that European countries across the political spectrum have suffered roughly as much as the US from covid. So why exactly does this post present Cuomo as the archetype of evil corrupt leadership? Well, it’s pretty obviously not because of covid failure or sexual harassment or ego games (all of which are pretty common among politicians), but because Cuomo has been a beyond-horrible leader regarding transit. Between this rather transparent bias and the rather transparent use of made-up statistics, this is not a piece likely to convince anyone whose mind is not already on our side.

          • Benjamin Turon

            Caustic bombast in which the unsavory Andrew Cuomo is compared Osama Bin Laden seems less than helpful for advocating for better governance, the whole point of rhetoric like this is to bury the point, no one pays much attention to anything else besides the labeling of a failed political leader as a mass killer for bungling the response to a pandemic in which most political leaders failed to some measure. Its just below yelling out Hitler or Nazis in a debate, it never leads to a constructive place. This name calling and hyperbole is what makes cable news and social media in the USA so toxic to the nation’s wellbeing.

            I’ve usually thought of Alon Levy as being the “Spock” character in transit debates, but lately Levy seems more like Doctor McCoy pumped full of cordrazine and running amok in the past shouting: “Murderers! Assassins! – YOU! What planet is this!? Does it have a decent transit system managed by non-mass killers!?” To borrow from another sci-fi franchise: “Anger leads to Hate which leads to the Darkside.”

            As a New Yorker – for me Gov. Cuomo can’t leave soon enough, yet while he deserves plenty of blame for the fumbling in the first months of the pandemic, including the ridiculous and utter counterproductive fighting with Mayor De Bazio – comparing him to the mastermind of 9-11 is just unseemly and enters on into Tucker Carlson territory – it undermines the serious of one’s argument. Sure, one can point out Cuomo’s failed leadership by highlighting COVID deaths in New York State, but by summer New York was no longer the national leader in pandemic death, and the state has done well up till now*. Cuomo didn’t set out to kill thousands with a virus, he made terrible mistakes in response, which is bad leadership but not evil, which is why his sexual abuse of staffers is what is doing him in in the eyes of the public.

            (*Although we are of course not Vermont with is ultra-low death count and 80% vaccination rate, unsurprising since having been had several bipartisan state rail events in the Green Mountain State – including shaking hands with both the last two governors – I find that they’re not very partisan folks, overall pragmatism and congeniality seem to be the ruling climate. In contrast ever more partisan New York State has an Imperial government with an Byzantine bureaucracy headed by a Caesar.)

            I can understand deep boiling anger. I wrote to my Congresswoman Elise Stefanik last January, calling her a seditious traitor, pointing out that my great grandfather who fought in the Civil War in Union Blue and my grandfather who fought and was wounded in WWII, and ended by asking her to leave the country for the Russian Federation, the Peoples Republic of China, or Hong Kong; since her political leaning would have her fit in with an authoritarian cult of personality. It made feel good to do this, although it likely had no effect on the Trumpite.

            But really, in general more constructive and dignified criticism and critique I think will go farther in furthering a worthy cause, like better transportation policy and administration. The World needs more thoughtful and disciplined commentators who while firm in their speech, avoid spitefulness.

            P.S. The sentence: “Andrew Cuomo has a Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to gold, that is, shiny, expensive, and useless” is pretty witty, although some of our new Upstate rail stations and thruway rest stops are pretty nice, even if they likely cost too much, especially as Cuomo meddled in all their designs, including a rebuilding of the Mohawk Welcome Center on the NYS Thruway six months after its grand opening by the governor. Still, a very nice place to hang out while watching trains on the opposite shore and boats pass through the canal locks.

          • michaelrjames

            Alon has written plenty of sober criticism of Cuomo, concerning NY’s transit failings, so I reckon he gets a pass on putting his head out the window and screaming “I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore”.
            As you said the opening sentence is witty and gets excused solely on that ground. Let’s not be humourless technocrats … all the time.

          • michaelrjames

            Oops, I see that I have committed multiple grammatical sins. It’s off to a Siberian pronoun re-education camp with me.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s off to a Siberian pronoun re-education camp with me.


            As a New Yorker – for me Gov. Cuomo can’t leave soon enough, yet while he deserves plenty of blame for the fumbling in the first months of the pandemic, including the ridiculous and utter counterproductive fighting with Mayor De Bazio – comparing him to the mastermind of 9-11 is just unseemly and enters on into Tucker Carlson territory – it undermines the serious of one’s argument.

            I don’t think he should be prosecuted for first-degree murder, only second-degree. 60,000 people died; at the incompetence level of a Newsom or DeSantis or Abbott, all of whom make me think Laschet and Söder are good leaders, at most 40,000 would have. The dithering on masks and the nursing home scandals are both much worse than ordinary neglect; they rise to depraved heart, hence second-degree murder. Cuomo knew what he was doing and just didn’t care, because order-of-magnitude-worse death rates than 9/11 are nothing to him compared with palace intrigue. Well, we know how to defeat monarchs like this: we remove them and replace them with democratic leaders, not heirs.

          • Eric2

            “The dithering on masks and the nursing home scandals are both much worse than ordinary neglect; they rise to depraved heart, hence second-degree murder. Cuomo knew what he was doing and just didn’t care, ”

            I suggest that you stick to transit, where you have knowledge and talent, and stay away from the armchair psychology speculation.

          • adirondacker12800

            There’s a difference between not getting it exactly right in the first few days or weeks and actively discouraging mitigation measures today.

          • adirondacker12800

            As of this moment Louisiana and Mississippi have more deaths per 100,000 than New York. Mississippi has managed to surpass New Jersey. Arizona has as many as Rhode Island and seems to ready to surpass Massachusetts.
            In other news, with 70 percent of the vote counted, according to NBC News, the recall election in California failed, very very roughly two thirds “No” and one third “Yes”.

          • Michael James

            And in other news … that is of some interest to the concerns of this blog:

            Linda Poon/Sarah Holder, Bloomberg CityLab,
            One of the most urgent issues in California, writes Sarah Holder: the housing crisis. Since August, Senate Bills 9 and 10, which would functionally eliminate single-family zoning across California, have been sitting on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. Together they would make way for denser housing, and help bring Newson closer to his goal of building 3.5 million homes by 2025 after two years of stalled progress. In contrast, none of the nearly 50 candidates vying for Newsom’s seat had a housing policy that would “make any demonstrable difference,” according to one advocate. Today on CityLab: What Becomes of California Housing Policy After the Recall Election.

  7. Frederick

    YOU think Cuomo is a failed leader. Maybe the Democratic Party and New York voters think otherwise?

    • Tiercelet

      The Democratic Party machine, I’ll give you; he’s *their* bastard, and can reliably be counted on to support the Clinton wing. (And beyond this, let’s be clear–whatever politically opportunistic noises they might make, the parties hate democracy. They’d be perfectly content never to hold another primary election ever again.)

      The voters? No, everybody hates him, to the point that we nearly elected an actress over him in the last primary. He’s won the general through the power of incumbency and inertia, and running against the kind of B-list opponents you get when your state party realizes it hasn’t won a statewide election since the youngest eligible voters were toddlers and pretty much gives up. Cuomo himself has never broken 30% of eligible voters in a general election, nor inspired even half the eligible voters to show up at the polls.

      • adirondacker12800

        He didn’t inspire voters to show up and vote for someone else either. Governor Horchul will have a bit over a year to convince voters to come out when she becomes governor in two weeks.

  8. borners

    Its interesting you use Khan as the counter-example. His two predecessors Johnson and Livingston were prima-donna egomaniacs albeit of different types from Cuomo. But the reality is that the Mayor has TFL, the Metropolitan Police and the London Plan and that’s the limit their powers. Their only income is TFL fares plus Central government grants. Health isn’t their bailiwick.

    But sticking to Byford, London has only recently become seen as a Labour stronghold. The conservatives and Lib dems both still have a strong presence there. So politics is much more competitive than in True Blue US states. The mayor’s first priority is transport and TFL control their no.1 power. And in a wider sense TFL is key to London’s political identity, that’s why London is the only place in England that asked for, voted for and has had regional government. Everywhere else it was imposed by centre.
    Furthermore the Byford hire would have appealed to Livingston and Johnson who would have seen the headlines of an unjustly treated Englishman returning home to good to pass up.

    Thing is that the Mayoralty has almost opposite problem of the US, its far too weak, it has to share its planning powers with the nimby-borough councils, can’t raise its own taxes/borrow. With construction costs I think a big part of the problem especially with Crossrail is that ad-hoc quangos do the building and then hand it over to TFL, even before we get to Design-build this has terrible incentives, the jobs of that body depend on the project.

  9. Herbert

    Armin Laschet received multiple warnings from several credible scientifically backed up sources in advance of the recent floods. He did nothing. Over a hundred people died.

    Armin Laschet might become Germany’s next chancellor and he already is the leader of NRW, Germany’s most populous state.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, at this point I’m not sure what I look forward to less, Laschet becoming chancellor or Lindner having veto power over literally anything. Whyyyyyyyyyy can’t Die Linke shut the hell up about its Putin appeasement for five minutes so that green-red-red looks more palatable to the public? It’s not as if once in power they’ll be able to do anything.

      • Oreg

        Putin appeasement is not even the main foreign-policy problem of Die Linke — depressingly, Putin has many friends in SPD and CDU, just not the Greens. The Linke foreign policy is has many insane features, from defending autocrats around the world (Cuba, Venezuela etc.) to leaving Nato. Add to that their complete incompetence on public finance and it should be clear that there is no way they will be part of the next federal government.

        • borners

          The current government is incompetent at finance, anti-debt constitutional amendments? Countries with better debt payment records (UK) than Germany have managed fine. Die Linke’s problem is that adapting itself fully to coalition-electoral politics means conceding the SPD was right all along. They have people at the local level who accept that, but only really in the city-states where the right wing parties are weakest. They aren’t the KPD or SED but the tradition remains, as do questions over whether they would choose “democracy” or “socialism”.

          • Alon Levy

            In Berlin they manage to combine the worst problems of the Greens (NIMBYism) and SPD (pro-car demagogy). In Thuringia they seemed better and then corona came and Ramelow turned out to be the Lindner of the left.

          • Oreg

            >Die Linke’s problem is that adapting itself fully to coalition-electoral politics means conceding the SPD was right all along.
            Excellent summary. 😀

            Ramelow indeed seems like a mainstream Ministerpräsident at state level. But the federal party leadership is irresponsible.

          • borners

            Its interesting comparing them to the Japanese Communist party which spent most of its life as a spoiler everybody hated and it rather enjoyed being hated, at least at the national level. But the collapse of the 1993-2012 opposition coalition finally put them on the spot (that and money troubles) they have started playing politics as a team sport, which means having tea with the Emperor, not running spoiler candidates, offering to form coalition governments with the CDPJ and even gently agreeing to keeping the security treaty with the Americans because the CCP is that bad.

            Though I guess the main difference is there is no Japanese GDR with its skeletons in so many closets.

  10. Lee Ratner

    This all assumes that we have one universal definition of a failed leader. You above refer to the upcoming movement to recall Newsome because he had a minor or great act of hypocrisy with a dinner at the French Laundry. The problem is that the people who are trying to get Newsome removed from office aren’t outraged liberals who want somebody who will act good and true in office; they are COVID deniers that want California to be led by somebody like Abbot of Texas or DeSantis or Florida. That is somebody who will stymie proper pandemic policy rather than just commit a hypocrisy while implementing the proper policy.

    The same is true of Cuomo. There have been two challengers to Cuomo in the Democratic primaries for governor of New York, Teachout and Nixon. They were very popular among educated white upper middle class liberals and really unpopular among African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans. Cuomo was very popular among non-whites in New York because he understood how government jobs and pseudo-patronage are an important source of middle class living.

    TLDR version is that not everybody has the same definition of what is a failed leader or can see why any given leader is failure.

    • Benjamin Turon

      Good points, but in my experience a lot of working class Whites also supported Cuomo (like my parents), in part due to his COVID press conferences last spring and anti-Trumpism winning him much good will, even now their support is only just now wavering with the drumbeat of sexual abuse of women. In contrast the stories I have heard from current and past state workers for years plus his corruption scandals have lead me to have a more open minded and dimmer view of our Caesar. Overall once people come to support a politician, its often hard far them to withdraw that support, we’ve seen that of course with Donald Trump.

    • Alon Levy

      Okay, then keep dying of corona if you prefer quibbling about whomst’s failure or whatever instead of demanding that your party remove killers, rapists, and bad rolemodels.

      • Lee Ratner

        This might be true in New York, where Cuomo’s replacement will be the Lt. Governor. It isn’t true in California. There the system of replacing the existing governor is given to the voters. The likely replacement is going to be an African-American hard right radio talk show host that likes Thomas Sowell. Somehow, I don’t think this will be an improvement on Newsome. The entire recall Newsom effort is being led by the COVID denying right.

  11. michaelrjames


    I didn’t find those commentaries really addressed the issue. (And very deja vu; I think I had previously read the Eurosceptic piece.) They are what I call ‘descriptive’ or phenomenological; not elucidating any solutions to the problems. We are all overly familiar with the problems, which is why there is such a feeling of deja vu in such pieces. I suppose I am hopelessly technocratic and want to hear what people think the solution is … which brings me back to two-term limits! (yeah, for every hard problem there is a ‘simple solution’ …). To me, the EU is so clearly a solution to so many problems in Europe. Indeed they have solved many of those problems. But not the problem that the voters have memories of goldfish and don’t remember or won’t acknowledge it to be true. En passant, that is why Brexit is so useful–to the EU, not the poor Brexiters.

    Also, as a technocrat (but note, not a econocrat; you understand as a ‘hard’ scientist I cannot possibly consider economics as a halfway competent science or even discipline; A. Levy should be the same but has the curious impediment of believing mathematical skills can solve anything which directly leads to some of the worst sins of economics in the last half-century) … anyway, as a technocrat I have a horror of the voter. Unwashed and uninformed, their heads increasingly filled with FB, TikTok nonsense and populist crap, looking for short-term fixes solely to their personal problems (often pure First World Problems of excess). Thus, the notion that the EU needs more direct democracy fills me with dread, even as one can see some benefits (not to mention ultimately the pragmatic need to avoid insurrection like Brexit). Here is a comment from one of those articles:

    The relatively short history of treating European Parliament elections in the UK as a midterm no-consequences fuck-the-EU jamboree — where the party list system elevated workshy tosspots who would never have survived a standard constituency campaign, or perhaps even a council by-election — is probably worth a moment’s consideration on its own.

    They’re talking about the likes of Nigel Farage who sat in the galleries throwing his own faeces at the EU, while being generously paid and now receiving a generous pension as a MEP. And Marine Le Pen, ditto.

    I have read some ideas on how to improve democratic accountability but it is hugely tricky. Give me a dirigiste technocrat over a populist any day.

    @Lee Ratner: “Saying that this is because of a lack of leadership is literally the Green Lantern Theory where all failures are because of a lack of will rather than the impossibility of the task.”

    Guilty as charged. I think the public showing of will is often enough to change the situation. Perceptions are everything, especially in politics. Just the threat of making senators stand up for 8 hours or whatever to do the hard work on their filibustering, would have an effect. But the Dems have turned into marshmallows and refuse to get too close to the fire. I know it is absurd, but I imagine LBJ hauling Manchin into the West Wing and threatening to drown him in the Oval Office spitoon until he agrees to do the right thing. And you know what? Manchin and his ilk wouldn’t even allow it to get that far because LBJ’s threats were real. If Biden can’t leverage his 30+ years in the Senate etc to bring the likes of Manchin into line, he’s useless. (yeah, yeah, majorities blah, blah).

    It derives from my earliest political memories: my first ever election was the one that got Gough Whitlam elected, and which was Labor’s first time in office for 23 years. He was a giant in both stature (second tallest world leader after Charles de Gaulle) and intellect. I simply love his OP: crash thru or crash. Opponents and “political realists” use it as an insult, implying naivete. He was in such a rush that he formed a working government of two (himself and the AG) before the rest of his govt was sworn in, and overnight freed all the jailed Vietnam draft-dodgers and several other things long overdue, and that in US parlance could be done by executive action. Then he proceeded as he began, despite all the fantastic (and illegal as it turned out) obfuscation by the conservatives and of course Murdoch; they so tried to block him in the senate (yeah …) that he called a Double Dissolution (both houses and 100% of senators face election) which he won and promptly got to pass all the blocked legislation. He passed more progressive legislation in a mere 35 months of governance that it changed us forever and dragged us kicking and screaming out of the 50s. Unfortunately it coincided with the economic crises of the mid-70s oil crisis. I’ve written about it: What would Gough do? in which there is a table of 25 of his achievements; remember, in only 35 months, thru relentless obstructionism and three elections.

    So yeah, I was deeply disappointed by Obama and his 96 months! I would much rather have seen him go down in flames than the kind of whimper we got. American democracy would have been healthier for it. His whimpering presidency led directly to Trump and Trumpism.

    • Tom the first and best

      The reason why the EU election gets treated like a giant by-election opportunity to send a protest vote message to member-state governments and why people complaint of a democratic deficit in the EU is because the EU Parliament does not (in practice) choose the EU`s executive branch (the EU Commission). However, since the EU Parliament does have veto over Commission choices, the EU Parliament needs to assert its choices over the EU Commission by by vetoing any nomination of any other candidate. Other choices need to be given the short shrift that other chamber`s of government in parliamentary democracies would give external executive appointers (monarchs, presidents, governors-general, etc) choosing someone who did not have parliamentary support. That is the solution.

      • michaelrjames

        @Tom the first and best

        That sounds eminently reasonable until you see who gets elected to that Parliament … however I admit my view is probably skewed and off-kilter by only being aware of the noisy ones who get publicity in the English press, the Farages and LePens (and those who write it, like Boris did for years as a Brussels correspondent). As I said, I am a bit of a technocrat and thus dirigiste by default, so am not entirely convinced of this suggestion even though I am split on ‘more democracy’. Doesn’t this type of inter-governmentalism provide enough democracy by proxy; ie. ultimately it is guided by democratically elected national governments? I suppose the answer is commonly held to be no. But the populist demogogery we see in the UK and in reality everywhere, shows how people are so easily led up toxic cul-de-sacs.

        I also don’t quite follow your last bit. If the EU Parliament can veto EU Commission appointees, don’t they already have that solution? Are you saying they currently don’t choose to use it?

        • Tom the first and best

          A small minority are anti-EU hardliners or miscellaneous hard right. They are small enough that they can be worked around, just as various EU countries work around far-right and/or far left parties. The vast majority of MEPs are from mainstream pro-EU parties and are able to form workable coalitions, just like they do in their member-states.

          Intergovernmentalism does not provide enough democracy. It does not provide the ability of voters to choose a coalition that is anywhere near ideologically cohesive, as the governments of member-states are of different political stripes, preventing voters from being able to shape the EU executive. It means the people who end up on the executive are member-state level politicians, both depriving EU level politicians of the prominence needed to get greater electoral mandates to implement policy at a European level and attract prominence and more talent to be MEPs. Executive choosing executive produces more remote outcomes than legislative scrutinising executive. When the EU Commission is chosen by intergovernmentalism, it is being chosen mainly by governments that did not get chosen by and are not accountable to any European voter who looks at it. When the German government is visibly a major driving force behind the choice of EU Commissioner, which given it it is the most populous and most economically powerful member-state is often under intergovernmentalism, it makes the EU look a bit more like the Fourth Reich than many or even most non-German voters want. When the EU Makes the choice, it is directly accountable to EU voters and therefore looks more democratic than imperial.

          Von Der Leyen was confirmed by only 10 votes. Rejecting a member-state minister (such as Von Der Leyen) who was not a spitzenkandidat presented to the EU voters should be the default position of the EU Parliament to assert EU Parliamentary control, on behalf of EU voters, over the EU Commission.

          • michaelrjames

            @Tom the first and best

            OK, I’ll try to take that on board. I’m still grappling with the differences but since we often argue here that choosing the appropriate executive is critical, I’ll accept your interpretation. well, as a valid one to hold if not necessarily validated. I still don’t have as much faith in voters as you do, but take your point about perception of democratic choice. And I hope that doesn’t lead to more partisan choices. I suspect regardless of method, the executive is chosen from the same pool of professional eurocrats (not a bad thing).
            Thanks for taking the trouble.

    • Lee Ratner

      LBJ was dealing with an actual Democratic majority in the Senate and House even if a lot of those Senators and Representatives were Southerners. He also had a non-insane Republican Party to deal with that just suffered a big defeat when Goldwater went down in flames. Biden is dealing with an entirely different situation and Manchin and Sinema are at their most powerful. I also beleive that there could be a few other Democratic Senators that don’t want to gut the filibuster but are using Manchin and Sinema as shields.

  12. barbarian2000

    FWIW the Governor of Rio de Janeiro State [Wilson Witzel] was caught skimming money from Covid field-hospitals in May 2020, removed from office in August 2020, and is currently undergoing a criminal trial regarding the scandal.

  13. ericson2314

    The good news is that if Cuomo is impeached, and perhaps convincted of things after, it will be much better for our democracy than some face-saving resignation. The oh-good-he-feels-shame-and-pardon dance of Nixon and Ford in hindsight was a massive disaster that along with Vietnam contributed to an erosion of our institutions (and the public’s trust of them) that has never recovered.

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