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December 31, 2004

You Can Make a Difference

Help survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunamis and their families by making monetary donations to these organizations:

United States Agency for International Development

Donate to the International Response Fund

Support South Asia Tsunami Relief Efforts

Information resource for the humanitarian relief community

Posted by Bob at 12:33 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2004

The perfect death penalty

His Excellency the Governor has said that he plans to file a bill to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts.  And this time it's going to be perfect: "it will guarantee only the guilty are executed."

We expect Romney's bill to hew pretty closely to the report of the Commission that he appointed a few months ago whose charge was to design the perfect death penalty system.  We have a lot of questions about the proposals in that report, but we'll hold off on specifics until the Governor actually files his bill.  For now, we have just one big question: is Romney committed to funding the enormous expense that his death penalty plan will entail?  His Excellency, of course, is opposed to new taxes in any form for any reason - he even thinks he can create universal health insurance in Massachusetts without raising taxes.  Yet Romney's own death penalty commission - which advocates for extensive DNA testing and highly qualified counsel in every death penalty case to prevent the execution of innocent people - says the following (at page 5 of the report):

[E]ach capital trial will be expensive. Moreover, additional costs inevitably will be incurred due to the proposed creation of new governmental institutions to review scientific evidence and post-trial claims of innocence. The Council strongly believes that, if the death penalty is to be reinstated in Massachusetts, such increased costs simply must be borne. It is not possible to have a death penalty system that is both inexpensive, and at the same time capable of being relied upon to produce accurate and fair results.

We anxiously await the Governor's explanation of how he plans to fund his luxury death penalty program without raising taxes or choking off other necessary programs.

Finally, this article on Romney's death penalty plan caught our eye.  It quotes state Rep. Phillip Travis (D-Rehoboth), who supports reinstating the death penalty, as advancing the following airtight argument:

Travis said, "God doesn’t take a stand against the punishment of death."
"Christ was executed," Travis added.

Whew!  Where to begin with that one?  For one thing, the Romans' unfortunate penchant for crucifixion does not strike us as the best argument in favor of capital punishment.  For another, there's that pesky "Thou shalt not kill" commandment to contend with.  But we're sure Rep. Travis has answers at the ready.  We look forward to hearing them in the coming debate.

Posted by David at 10:54 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Do-over?? Come on.

Having lost Washington State's Governor's race by 129 votes, Republican Dino Rossi now wants to throw out November's election and hold a new one.  Obviously, Democrat Christine Gregoire has rejected Rossi's call, and it will be interesting to see if Rossi follows through on his veiled threat to file an election contest, with the possibility of dragging the election well into next year.

You've got to hand it to the Republicans - they've got chutzpah.  Let's bear in mind that this is the same state Republican party that, after their candidate was initially thought to be the winner, criticized the Democrats for pursuing legal remedies (namely the hand recount) that state law expressly afforded them.  Now, having lost, the Republicans are seeking to have a new law passed that would wipe out weeks of work and millions of dollars spent on figuring out who actually won, in favor of spending millions more on another election.

HypocRossi indeed.

Posted by David at 11:48 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

Reilly's competition?

NEWS FLASH: Rep. Mike Capuano has announced publicly that he's ... well ... thinking about it.  The Boston Sunday Globe has a long article about the possibility that Capuano will run for Governor in 2006.  In it, Capuano is quoted as asking himself: "Can I win?  Can I raise the money?  Do I want the job?"

All excellent questions, although Capuano asks them in a curious order.  It seems to us that he should answer the last question first and take it from there - after all, a safe seat in the US Congress is a pretty nice job, and we'd be hard pressed to criticize him for not wanting to give it up.  However, we've already noted our worries about whether AG Tom Reilly is the best choice to oust His Excellency the Governor in 06, and Capuano has a lot of strengths (as well as some weaknesses, including the fact that he's largely unknown outside of his Boston-Somerville base).  Is there someone else who should be getting a hard look (other than Secretary of State Bill Galvin, who is the ultimate State House insider and seems unlikely to spark a lot of excitement)?  What do you think?

Posted by David at 12:49 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The CJ derby continues

Conservative guru Bill Kristol has predicted that 10th Circuit Judge Michael McConnell will be the next Chief Justice.  (Hat tip: Volokh.)  McConnell would be a savvy pick in many ways.  He's very conservative, very religious, and very very smart.  He's highly respected in legal circles, and you would see academics from all ideological perspectives coming out in favor of his nomination, although some liberal interest groups opposed him for the 10th Circuit and would likely do so again for the Supremes (note, however, this point-by-point response to the interest groups' attacks, written by a non-conservative law professor).  His big drawback: he's a white guy, so Bush would get no credit for naming the "first [black/Hispanic/female/whatever] Chief Justice" to the Court, something that Bush probably wants to do.  It will be interesting to see if that's enough to take McConnell out of the running.

In other news, Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner has definitively taken himself out of the running for a Supreme Court appointment by publicly acknowledging that he's an atheist (he may have done this before, but I hadn't seen it).  Posner was never likely to get the nod anyway - he's too much of a maverick, and he has written so prolifically that at some point he's managed to piss off just about everyone.  But the so-called "base" of the Republican party - the religious conservatives who really care about judicial nominations - would be most unhappy about Bush appointing an avowed atheist, even one who has one of the most highly respected legal minds in the country.

Posted by David at 11:50 AM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

Peace on earth, good will towards humans...

... without exception!

Look, there are certain folks that are using the season as a political football. For us blue-headed folks, let's not play that game. Hug your kids ... but hug your cantankerous Republican uncle even tighter today.

We'll never out-mean the Right, so let's out-love them. Merry Christmas.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:11 AM in Random | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

I wouldn't have believed it ...

if I hadn't read it with my own eyes.  Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby routinely turns my stomach with his paleoconservative rants.  But this one is nothing short of breathtaking:

California has 641 murderers on death row, yet it has executed only 10 people since 1992. That is a travesty -- no less so than if hundreds of killers sentenced to life were routinely released after only a few months behind bars.

Think about that for a sec: Jacoby is saying that there is no difference between murderers rotting in prison waiting to be executed and murderers out on the streets after serving a few months of a life sentence.  Did it occur to him that at least the guys sitting on death row don't pose much of a threat to the public?  And did it occur to him that a big part of what the criminal justice system is supposed to do is to protect the public from dangerous people by locking them up?  Christ!

To the eye-for-an-eye fanatics like Jacoby, justice and vengeance are essentially interchangeable.  And the big danger of that position is that it completely loses sight of the possibility that criminal justice might actually do some good in the world, either by protecting society from dangerous people, or by making dangerous people less dangerous, or maybe even both.  In my view, reasonable people can and do disagree about the death penalty.  But Jacoby's obsession with execution as an end in itself borders on being downright ghoulish.  It's particularly frightening coming from someone who considers himself a religious man.

Posted by David at 06:43 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2004

Romney to run in 2006

Channel 5 reports that His Excellency the Governor has unequivocally stated that he intends to run for re-election in 2006.  As far as I know, this is the first time Romney has publicly committed to running again.

UPDATE: Daily Kos has picked up on this story - read through the comments for lots of interesting thoughts on MA politics. 

Posted by David at 05:30 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An amazing recount and a courageous Republican

A truly astounding process is underway in Washington State, where the margin in the Governor's race now appears to be EIGHT VOTES, out of 2.9 million cast.  And it further appears that the Democratic candidate is the one with the 8-vote lead, after earlier being behind first by 261 votes, and then by 42.  Wow.

The outstanding issue in the race is the fate of 573 (or possibly more) ballots in the Democratic stronghold of King County.  These ballots were very likely valid, but they were not considered because of a screw-up by county elections officials.  The question, argued today in the Washington Supreme Court (you can listen here), is whether the county canvassing board may consider those ballots for inclusion in the total.  (If they are included, it seems likely that they will favor the Democrat and will substantially widen the current 8-vote lead.)

This story is obviously incredibly important for lots of reasons.  My point here, though, is to give kudos to the Republican Secretary of State, Sam Reed, who has taken the position in this case that those 573+ ballots SHOULD be considered, contrary to the view of the state Republican party, which says that they SHOULD NOT.  Reed, sensibly, says that if in the process of conducting a recount you come across a screw-up that is not the fault of the voters, you should include those ballots.  He may well have ended his career in the Republican party for taking this position - angry Republican mobs are now demanding that he be "fired."  But how nice to see that there are still Republicans out there who are willing to stand up to the extreme elements of their party - a party that has demonstrated time and again that it will stop at nothing to win.

UPDATE: The Washington Supreme Court has now ruled unanimously that the ballots in question may be considered during the recount.  A win for Democrats, the Republican Secretary of State, and democracy; a loss for the state Republican party and for others who don't believe that all valid votes should be counted.

FURTHER UPDATE: King County has finished counting all the ballots, and the Democrat, Christine Gregoire, is the winner by 130 votes.  But don't expect the Republicans to concede anytime soon.  They will try anything - they always do.

Posted by David at 03:49 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2004

Brookings gettin' rowdy!

AP reports the smackdown:

"Social Security is like a car with a flat tire," said Peter Orszag, an economist at the liberal Brookings Institution and adviser in the Clinton White House. "There is a problem. We need to fix the flat tire. But we don't need to replace the car."

Bush regularly claims Social Security faces a shortfall of nearly $11 trillion, which, Orszag said, is a misleading figure because it makes the system appear to be in worse shape than it is.

The figure — $10.4 trillion to be precise — is the shortfall over the "infinite horizon," as measured by Social Security's Board of Trustees. The calculation was included for the first time in the trustees' 2003 report, along with the required 75-year measure. The American Academy of Actuaries criticized the use of the $10.4 trillion figure in the report, saying it was likely to mislead the public. [emphasis mine]

Mislead the public? These guys? No way. The Enron administration continues. But if Dubya didn't know how to deal with real capital in his business career, he sure isn't going to know what to do with his mythical political capital.

I smell a winner's curse... Wouldn't it be great if this plan was completely derailed before W. was re-inaugurated? Good times... good times.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 05:41 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack