Current Affairs Politics

Beware The Andrew Cuomo Whisperers

As the world goes to hell in a handbasket, to use the American phrase, this article in Current Affairs magazine caught my eye, warning of the perils of jumping on the Andrew Cuomo bandwagon as some in the US media* begin to cast a rather cold eye over the would-be presidential nominee and wannabe podcaster Joe Biden. From Lyta Gold:

To make New York State’s hand sanitizer, prisoners earn a thrilling 64 cents an hour, a penny less than the purported New York prison average of 65 cents an hour. Prisoners are not permitted to possess the hand sanitizer themselves because of its alcohol content. This measure has been condemned as slave labor, which it is, since the 13th Amendment bans slavery with the notable exception of convicted felons.

And it sounds a lot like slavery if you ask the prisoners themselves. Katie Way of VICE spoke to a prisoner pseudonymously referred to as “Michael,” who claimed that the hand sanitizer operation runs 24 hours a day, in three eight hour shifts, though some people work double shifts for more money. “‘Getting 64 cents is actually really good,’ [Michael] said. ‘I never got paid that much before doing any type of job like this.’” According to Michael, the work is exhausting. “‘We’re completely overworked…They treat us like shit…We don’t really have too much time to do anything…No time at all. We literally… our complete day is booked all the way.’”

On top of that, THEY AREN’T EVEN MAKING HAND SANITIZER AT ALL. The prisoners are working, all right, and being paid 64 cents an hour… to take existing hand sanitizer made by an unknown outside contractor, bottle it, and slap a NYS CLEAN logo on it. As Katie Way reports, “neither NYSDOCCS [the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision] nor the governor’s office would respond to repeated questions about why the state would need to use prison labor to bottle hand sanitizer.” Cuomo has insisted that his NYS Clean hand sanitizer is much cheaper to produce. He’s never said why, but we all know why; slave labor is cheap. But the hand sanitizer ISN’T even made by the prisoners, just bottled and labeled by them in what sounds like an unnecessarily elaborate operation. According to VICE, “the governor’s office [didn’t] respond to questions about Cuomo’s pitch that this was a cheaper, more effective option than buying bottled hand sanitizer outright.”

Cuomo read Fishbein’s piece, and called her; you might have expected that she took the opportunity to rightfully yell at him for exploiting slave labor just so he can pretend to make cost-effective hand sanitizer in the middle of a pandemic, not to mention how he’s kept the prisons open in the first place as coronavirus spikes through them. Alas, Fishbein was too overwhelmed. “I did not ask a single substantive policy question,” she writes.

Good to see that the Covid-19 pandemic is bringing out the best in humanity.

*Some Biden fans are still in denial. Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.

On Monday, former vice president Joe Biden kicked off the first in what he promises will be a series of podcasts. Aptly entitled “Here’s the Deal,” it is one way to overcome the void in campaign activity necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic and bans on public gatherings. Naturally, the first podcast was about the coronavirus and included the appearance of Biden aide Ronald A. Klain, who headed the Ebola response under President Barack Obama. (Klain is also a Post contributor.)

As a preliminary matter, this was a refreshing reminder that not all presidents or presidential candidates require bowing and scraping from aides, insult questioners, operate data-free on their “gut” and lack an appreciation for what ordinary people experience during a crisis. The overwhelming impression one came away with is that Biden would be a calm, rational and normal president.

Has she been watching the same online shit-shows as the rest of us?

8 comments on “Beware The Andrew Cuomo Whisperers

  1. rossioncoyle

    Yes-you can see the corporate media just slavering at the mouth at the prospect- a bastion of redundant (if it was ever actually viable) third way economics who looks good and is seemingly in ripping health. They are shameless and they are desperate. Unfortunately I think they have fairly hobbled Bernie at this stage. Well, I hope they will be able to sleep again sometime, because they are cursing their own people.


  2. I know it’s very unscientific, but any time I’ve watched an interview with Cuomo he comes across as an arrogant, entitled creep. By the sounds of the above, it was scientific enough to get the measure of him. Must say, I’ve always liked his brother on CNN.


  3. Everyone knows the Cuomos are just the Medici Family of the new world!!

    However, I do see a fair amount of people from local government and private sector stepping up. One never expects good things from The Cuomo Family but looking at the balance sheet I’ve been surprised for the better.

    Actually there are attempts to make more hand-sanitizer here, but they have run into a fairly arcane and strange legal technicality, from Prohibition. (1920-1933. I think it’s a safe assumption on an Irish web that most people know that meant Prohibition on the manufacture and sales of alcoholic beverages in the US at the time. I hate making assumptions.)

    Here’s the deal/problem. When Prohibition was in effect a lot of disinfectant solutions and even skin products had alcohol in them, so the law became that they had to denature the alcohol by putting chemicals that both made it inedible, and also gave it smell and taste that would mean few people would want to eat or drink it. When Prohibition was repealed the rule became that this denaturing would have to apply to any products not marketed for human consumption. If the alcohol is not denatured an 18% excise tax and other local vice taxes would apply. There have been skin products that were sold without this denaturing and the fact this tax was applied meant they were seen as “luxury goods” due to the higehr price.

    The problem here is two fold. Breweries and distilleries are trying to “step up” by temporarily converting to hand-sanitizer production. They aren’t equipped to denature the alcohol and the denaturing chemicals have been affected by the whole supply chain being short. They actually produce better smelling hand-sanitizers than the convention market not just because of the denaturing not having been done, but because of the scents they use like lemon and mint versus that ugly soap perfume to cover up the denaturants. Indeed, a lot of people are having trouble getting children to use hand-santizer, because the kids gag and resist. Some people worry about poisoning toddlers if they use it because despite smell and taste, they still put their hands in their mouths. The Senate won’t agree to relax the excise tax for brewery made hand sanitizers and disinfectant.

    However the liquor stores are more bare than the grocery stores (people are falling back on Civil War staples like cornmeal and beans with some add-ons like diet soda), not because people are getting drunk, but because they are adding anything from dish soap to peroxide to Windex or floor cleaner to make their own disinfectants.

    As for Biden. Honestly, I doubt it matters much anymore which Democrat gets picked. It’s a new Springtime for “Yellow Dog Democrats”. That’s an old term for people who would literally vote for a Yellow Dog if that was who the Democratic Party nominated.

    Anger at Donald Trump where I am (A Red state showing signs of Purple) is off-the-charts. Even people who ardently supported Trump are in the large majority calling for him to be “locked-up”. Slight over half the people I know who voted for Trump are doing shit-eating mea culpas the likes of which St. Augustine couldn’t have imagined.

    My sense is that when the worst of this is over The American people are going to desperately want an “Eisenhower” for President. Somebody who is extremely stable regardless of political party. They will also want considerable social progress on multiple fronts. A moderate super-stable President can easily mean a time of massive social progress as long as the moderate is a Democrat and the “math” in Congress favors it. At other times (which may return) that was true of any moderate regardless of party.

    This doesn’t mean Americans will start identifying as socialist. What I suspect will actually happen is that Americans will revert to their pre-Bolshevik Revolution ways- Where the terms “Capitalist” and “Socialist” were hardly used in political debate at all, and to be anything but an unabashed supporter of a mixed economy is seen as a luxury that nobody can even think about. That was over 99% of the native born population from inception of the nation (and Colonial times in some places) until well into The Cold War. And even after Americans have an obvious but not often talked about tendency to revert to it in times of national crisis. This time around I expect them to do with an absolute vengeance-only most non-academics will say “prgamatic” rather than “mixed economy”. Mark my words on that point.


    • But was Trump not riding high in recent polling on the back of his perceived good handling of the Covid-19 crisis? Up to last week at least and the NYC disaster. And that recent poll had him and Biden almost neck and neck in terms of intention to vote. Statistically there was nothing in it. In fact Biden was poorer placed than H Clinton had been in some of her polling vs. Trump.


      • Further to your point, ASF, despite Johnson making a complete hash of the corona response, polling has him and his administration more popular than they were before the recent election. I’ve also read a couple of articles by historians that warn against people expecting this crisis to herald a sea-change in politics or the political order. So I’m not holding my breath on that front.

        Liked by 1 person

        • A lot of what that polling increase probably comes down to is a short term human response to crisis. A lot of the people called “Low Information Voters” might sort of fall-back into a response of approving of the current leadership in a crisis because that’s what they sort of what to believe. Some people have a relationship to authority that says, “A bad decision can turn out OK, if everybody pulls for it, while even a good decision can be ruined if too many people aren’t on board.” Sometimes even very educated people if raised on that thinking can fall-back into it short term during a crisis, especially if they aren’t watching what Johnson is actually doing.

          I wouldn’t assume that Johnson’s approval rating is a long term trend. In fact, it would be remarkable if the politics of any country that has been significantly affected by this went on more or less unchanged, and as a reification of the status quo.

          This doesn’t mean that the critics of the current leaders are going to get everything they want on a silver platter instantly. However, it is extremely
          likely to have a variety of complex short, medium, and long term effects- some may not be known until years down the road.


          • Some very good points, Grace. It strikes me too that many people would feel themselves to be somehow disloyal/unpatriotic not to get behind the government in a major crisis like this. They equate government with country during a major crisis. As you say, afterwards, people find themselves looking for shortcomings and someone to blame.


      • It’s pretty typical- a historical pattern- that during a major national disaster the President gets a boost in approval, but it never lasts. In fact, having either a bad economy OR a major disaster (even if it’s accompanied by a massive short term increase in approval), is extremely bad news for an incumbent President going into an election.

        When you look at the poll after a disaster, you can never confuse the short term rise in Presidential approval with how it’s going to look in a few months. Jimmy Carter’s approval rating shot up from 30% to 66% or 77% depending on which poll you go by during and immediately after the Iran Hostage Crisis. However, it wasn’t long before criticism of his handling of the crisis (most of it grossly unfair in my view) was off the scale, and his rating were in the toilet by election 1980.

        Herbert Hoover actually got a massive boost in approval right after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, but in a few months people were blaming him for The Depression to the point of labeling shanty towns of migrants “Hoovervilles” even though FDR’s policies were more extension of what Hoover had been doing, than a radical departure from it. (Much of the conventional wisdom about Hoover is wrong.)


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