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June 30, 2005

So, why did we elect him Governor... ?

Ah yes, to "clean up the mess on Beacon Hill", riiight. Although it would seem that MA voters are doing pretty well at that on their own (with a big assist from Tom Finneran's mouth.)

Sco at .08 Acres points to this bullet-pointed litany of failure (have I mentioned how I love bullet points?) and accompanying report card in the Herald. It takes Mitt to the woodshed for his lack of accomplishment on a number of issues: a still-shrinking labor force, people leaving the state (especially from the city of Boston: 19,000 over the last four years, a 3.4% exodus).

But the fascinating thing was to read the supposedly conservative Herald criticizing Mitt on underfunding education, home health care, and affordable housing. Gosh, isn't that why you elect a conservative Republican: slash spending, cut taxes, and otherwise tough luck, you're on your own? You know, encourage the "ownership society"?

I think there's a dirty little secret about politics: People actually really like big government, especially entitlements. Don't get me wrong, we don't like paying taxes -- especially not for outrages like the Big Dig and Iraq. But Social Security is still showing considerable amperage as the third rail, and people still generally like Medicare and Medicaid. Newt Gingrich knew that it was going to be 40 more years in the desert for the Republicans if ClintonCare passed in '94. (Cf. "The System" by Broder and Johnson, pg. 11). In our conference call a few months back, Teddy Kennedy bemoaned that Congress used to take up issues that actually matter to people. Not coincidentally, that was when Democrats were in power.

But all politics is still local: When we get away from the bluster and chest-thumping individualism of Washington Republicans (that's for you, OW), it turns out that people really do want teachers in the schools, good care for Grandma and Grandpa, and potholes filled. That takes tough decision-making and some elbow-grease administrative talents -- a bit more than Mitt's management-consulting-style PowerPoint shows. (See our Guv's latest résumé-padding exercise here. Too funny.)

So, it goes back to Deval Patrick's line: What do you want government to do for you?

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 02:04 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Breaking: Time Inc. to hand over documents in Novak-Plame-gate

Time Inc. has issued a press release indicating that it has decided to comply with the order of federal judge Thomas Hogan requiring it to turn over documents, presumably including reporter Matthew Cooper's notes, sought by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in Novak-Plame-gate.  I thought that might happen - interesting that it happened so quickly.  The next move, of course, is the really big one.  Assuming that the documents are promptly handed over to Fitzgerald, the judge might give Fitzgerald a chance to review them to see whether they give him what he needs instead of requiring the parties to file papers tomorrow (which is the current schedule).  And expect the lawyers for Judith Miller and (especially) Matthew Cooper to argue that the reporters' testimony is no longer needed in light of Time's decision to hand over the documents.

Here is the key passage of the press release:

Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law. The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.

We believe that our decision to provide the Special Prosecutor with the subpoenaed records obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration.

"The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it."  Well, none of us except Judy Miller.  She, alone amongst American citizens, apparently gets to defy court orders.  Please - get over yourself, Judy.

That said, let's hope that the notes give Fitzgerald what he needs.  Reporters in jail don't do anyone any good, and if the notes tell Fitzgerald what he needs to know, maybe this drama can finally be brought to its conclusion.

Posted by David at 10:03 AM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Novak-Plame-gate update: "The time has come, the Walrus said."

The federal judge in charge of Novak-Plame-gate, Thomas Hogan, spoke the quoted words in the title of this post in a hearing today in which he essentially told Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper, the reporters whose testimony special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wants, that they will be in jail within a week unless they agree to testify before the grand jury.  (As you'll recall, on Monday the Supreme Court refused to hear the reporters' appeals from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision rejecting their claims of a privilege not to reveal confidential sources, which brought them to the end of the legal road.)

The reporters have pretty much said all along that they'll go to jail before they reveal their sources (although Cooper has lately been somewhat more circumspect).  The really interesting wrinkle, though, is that Cooper's employer, Time Inc., is also on the hook because it has control of Cooper's notes which probably would reveal his sources.  And Judge Hogan has indicated that he intends to impose gargantuan fines on Time if it refuses to comply with his order.  Now, Cooper and Miller are individuals and can stand on principle 'til the cows come home.  But Time Inc. is a public corporation with fiduciary obligations to its shareholders who are likely far less interested in lofty principles than in getting good returns on their investments.  Debilitating fines imposed by federal judges tend to be bad for business, so methinks there's a good chance that Time Inc. will cave.  And if Time Inc. caves, that might get at least Cooper off the hook - maybe it'll help out Miller too.

I've blogged a lot about this case (here, here, here, and here, for instance).  In a nutshell, I think it's appropriate to force Miller and Cooper to testify, for the reasons I outlined here months ago (which ended up being quite similar to D.C. Circuit Judge Tatel's concurring opinion).  But the best result would be for Time Inc. to cave, which hopefully (a) gets Fitzgerald the information he needs; (b) avoids the spectacle of imprisoning well-known reporters for refusing to divulge confidential sources; and (c) finally nails the traitor who leaked Plame's identity to douchebag of liberty Bob Novak in the first place (and maybe nails Novak for perjury in the process).  Stay tuned - the parties have to file their next round of papers with the court by Friday, and will appear again in court next Wednesday.

UPDATE: Murray Waas has a different take on the bottom line than I do, but his report on today's events at the courthouse are well worth a read.

Posted by David at 12:11 AM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

Blogroll maintenance

Last Friday was Dan Kennedy's last post over at Media Log, which has long been one of the more interesting reads around these parts.  We will miss him.

And now for some housekeeping.  The point of a blogroll is to provide links to sites that we, in our sole discretion, think offer interesting and up-to-date commentary on issues that we care about.  Since Media Log and Romney Is A Fraud have officially signed off from blogging, I am removing them from the blogroll.  Also, as I noted here, the MassDems blog seems to have become defunct - it's been over a month since the folks at the state party posted anything new over there.  In the same category, alas, must be placed Noho-missives, who has gone strangely silent [UPDATE: see the comments].

Any and all of these worthy bloggers will immediately be restored to the blogroll upon their return to the blogosphere.  But the clutter must be cleared.  Long lists of links are like shelves at the video store: too many options makes it impossible to choose from among them.

Posted by David at 03:38 PM in Random | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

The lobbyists are coming! The lobbyists are coming!

[update: I'm an idiot. I've linked the Globe story now.]

... and it seems it was an inside job. Halliburton and Exelon annexed Faneuil Hall for a day:

Faneuil Hall, a national landmark for American democracy and one of the city's most popular destinations, was sealed off yesterday, to the disappointment of tourists and wanderers from the Freedom Trail. But the doors were flung open to the Republican Party's corporate donors, including representatives of Halliburton and Exelon, who held a secret huddle inside with Governor Mitt Romney and other GOP governors.

It seems that Mitt was taking special interest bucks and trading health care advice with Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri -- he of the 57% disapproval rating. Now, Gov. Blunt has dug that hole for himself in part by chucking poor people off Medicaid because he doesn't want to raise taxes. So... maybe there is a political limit to the "no new taxes", "ownership society" idolatry. We'll see when it comes to our health care discussion over the next year.


Speaking of which, on the front page of the City/Region section was a peculiar article by Scott Greenberger with two accounts of women who don't have health coverage, juxtaposed with the number of uninsured in MA (460,000) in red, and supposed facts and figures of Mitt's supposed plan -- supposed because we don't actually have any details forthcoming from the Gov. Will these two women actually be helped by the Governor's plan? Substantially? Not at all? What about the Health Access and Affordability Act? Would that be a better deal for them? TravCare?

Look, it's good to put a human face on the policy, but come on, Globe, let's start asking some tough questions.

So, I will take a stab at one of the two situations as regards HA3 -- I'm certainly open to other folks with expertise chiming in here as well:

''There really doesn't seem to be any reason why there can't be a health plan that people who work in small businesses or who are self-employed can buy through the federal government," Bullett said. [She makes $34k/year, two kids.]

From GBIO's handy Health Care Proposal Comparison sheet, HA3 will:

  • Create a “re-insurance” program that takes the most expensive cases out of the individual/small group market. Firms with up to 50 workers are eligible.
  • This program will reduce the cost of insurance for individuals and small businesses by as much as 30%, without reducing the quality of coverage or increasing co-pays/deductibles.
  • No creation of stripped-down insurance products.
  • Expands Insurance Partnership Program which subsidizes small businesses that offer health coverage to low-income employees.

So, in other words, HA3 does pool resources of small business and the uninsured, and will make insuring yourself a heck of a lot cheaper.

The other woman's situation I'm not totally clear on:

"The state government, without reviewing her case in detail, says she should qualify for MassHealth, but she insists that she isn't eligible... When she is really sick, she goes to hospital emergency rooms for free care. She says she understands that ''there is a segment of the population that needs some coverage," but she insists she isn't part of it."

It would seem to me that it would be better if she were on MassHealth as opposed to using the Free Care Pool, because of the potential preventative benefits. By using Free Care, she's using taxpayer money anyway, and it seems that most analyses think that would be better put to expanding MassHealth. Supposedly Mitt's plan deals with getting eligible folks onto MassHealth (how?), but he seems to be saying that it won't cost anything more. I wonder how that works.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 11:41 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2005

Ten Commandments update

As I predicted, the Supreme Court upheld the Texas display of the Ten Commandments, but struck down the display in Kentucky.  I didn't quite get the votes right, though - both cases were 5-4, with Justice Breyer the only one in both majorities.  Here is a lineup of how the Justices voted:

Voting that both displays should be STRUCK DOWN:
Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg

Voting that both displays should be UPHELD:
Rehnquist, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas

Voting that the Texas display was OK but the Kentucky display was not:

Based on some of Justice Kennedy's opinions in this area, especially Lee v. Weisman (a school prayer case), I had guessed that he would find at least the Kentucky display unconstitutional.  I also guessed that Justice O'Connor would vote with Justice Breyer to split the difference.  It's an interesting lineup: O'Connor voted with the "liberals" in both cases; Kennedy with the "conservatives," and Breyer - rather than Kennedy or O'Connor, the usual "swing" Justices - decided both cases.  Does this represent a sea change in the Court's Establishment Clause lineup?  We may know sooner rather than later - tomorrow the Court should tell us whether it will take up one or more of three significant Establishment Clause cases currently pending before it involving the Ten Commandments and school buildings. [UPDATE (6/28): Nope - the Court has denied review in all three cases.  Apparently the Court has said all it intends to say on the Ten Commandments for now.]

One more thing: don't be fooled by careless press reports that describe the results of these cases along the lines of "Supreme Court disallows Ten Commandments in courthouses."  The results in these cases were dictated by their particular facts, which in both cases are somewhat unusual - the Texas monument is part of a large (several acre) outdoor monument garden, and the monument has been there unchallenged for 40 years, a fact that Justice Breyer placed some reliance on, while in the Kentucky case it is difficult to imagine a better set of facts in which to demonstrate religious motivation on the part of the officials putting up the display.  The real, and perhaps unfortunate, lesson here is that these cases will continue to be decided in a fact-intensive, case-by-case way without resort to broad, overarching rules.

There's more than you could possibly want to read about these cases here.

Posted by David at 06:40 PM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Romney's lousy proposal may be a good sign, continued

LeftCenterLeft holds forth on Romney's health care proposal:

And he does have a knack for co-opting progressive initiatives, much like he did in taking Robert Reich's proposal to combine the Turnpike and the DOT. It almost doesn't matter for him that the initiatives fail in the Legislature – he gets to look like the one with bold, reform ideas, and the left branch of the Democrats no longer can get traction on their goals. With health care, for instance, the road to employer-based mandatory health insurance may be harder.

Well... I'm not so sure. Perhaps he's admitted that there is space in the public arena for big ideas. That's not an easy admission for a "conservative" to make, and I think that the ACT! Coalition (which includes Health Care for All, GBIO and others), Sal DiMasi, Travaglini and others can take some credit for forcing this discussion upon him.

As HCFA blogs (hey, what happened to the permalinks?), give the Governor credit for coming up with a big, fat, ambitious, comprehensive, and as it turns out, lousy and detail-free idea. Yes, it's sucked up a lot of the oxygen in the last week regarding health care. But HCFA has highlighted some of the reaction: "I resent the implication in the article that my intention is to defraud the healthcare industry by seeking out medical care and then refusing to pay."  Insofar as Romney's idea gets beat up by just about everyone (thanks David!), I'm hoping that more people will be looking for a reasonable -- and suitably ambitious -- alternative. We got one.

I hope that we didn't think that he was just going to out-and-out endorse HA3 (although that would be great), or a universal care constitutional amendment, or something like that -- that's just not realistic. But insofar as he joins the conversation, talking about big steps that we can take to get everyone insured, I welcome it. This is the discussion we should be having. Big ideas, a lot at stake -- because people's lives are at stake.

I see Romney's proposal in the context of a big political tennis game: for the moment, we've forced him into taking the shot that we wanted him to take. It's still up to us to take that lob and put it away.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 06:21 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rick Santorum: Because he can

Well, this article written by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) three years ago is making the rounds in the blogosphere today. Of local interest, it includes this hilariously vile howler:

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

Ripper_1Wow ... I didn't know whether to be angry, or laugh, or throw up. That's worthy of the pathetic rambling of some drunk AM radio talk-show caller -- or maybe Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove. But instead it's the considered, published thoughts of a U.S. Senator -- someone who is referred to as "The Honorable".

Of course, we know about Santorum's weird tendency towards rhetorical free-association: "man-on-dog", anyone? This comment reveals a constellation of so many ideological neuroses that it's really hard to pick apart. So let's start with this: it's cognitive dissonance, i.e. an attempt to rationalize an opinion that's at odds with the facts. In other words, Santorum thinks: Catholic Church = good. Child rape and coverups = bad. Therefore the Church must not be wholly responsible for that bad thing that happened, and therefore there must be another culprit: Liberalism! And how conveeeeenient that the Seat of Liberalism is the "center of the storm": Boston!

So, why do Santorum, Karl Rove, and others feel free to say rotten, slanderous things about liberals -- and even putatively liberal cities? Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can. Look, until Rick Santorum gets his hat handed to him by the voters of Pennsylvania, until liberals tar Karl Rove with all of the disgusting things he's done over the years, until liberals start sticking up for themselves in the media and at the ballot box, this will continue.

Rick Santorum needs to apologize to Boston. I want to hear demands from Mitt Romney, Tom Reilly, Deval Patrick, Menino, Travaglini, DiMasi, and all the local mayors that Santorum apologize.

And by the way, if anyone from the beautiful state of Pennsylvania is reading this: This is a matter of self-respect for you guys. Is anyone proud of this clown? (Not that many, it would seem.)

Update: Here is a fine post that points out that most importantly, Santorum has insulted and trivialized the victims of clergy abuse by treating them as a political football.

Another update: Speaking of Karl Rove and his continuing exploitation of 9/11 for power, see 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser's extensive takedown at Huffington Post:

It was only after your invasion of Iraq, that Bin Laden's goals were met. Because of your war in Iraq two things happened that helped Bin Laden and the terrorists: al Qaeda recruitment soared and the United States is now alienated from and hated by the rest of the world. In effect, what Bin Laden could not achieve by murdering my husband and 3,000 others on 9/11, you handed to him on a silver platter with your invasion of Iraq - a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Which leads me to my final questions for you Karl: What are your motives when it comes to 9/11 and are you really sure that you understand 9/11?

Thanks to Liberal Oasis for the steer.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 02:42 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Reporters lose in Novak-Plame-gate

The Supreme Court denied review of the D.C. Circuit's determination that reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper must either testify in the Novak-Plame-gate affair or be held in contempt of court.  This is the end of the road for these reporters - they are out of legal options and will either have to testify or go to jail.  More on this later - I have to catch a train now!

Posted by David at 10:31 AM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A big day at the Supreme Court

Today is the last day of the Supreme Court's 2004-2005 term, and as always, several really big cases will be announced.  The ones that will probably get the most attention, and yet will have only minimal impact on the everyday lives of most Americans, are the two Ten Commandments cases.  I've posted before on these cases, along with a prediction that I will now repeat: in the Texas case (Van Orden), the public display of the Ten Commandments will be upheld, by a vote of 6-3 or 7-2 (Stevens, Ginsburg, and maybe Souter dissenting), and in the Kentucky case (McCreary County), the public display of the Ten Commandments will be struck down by a vote of 6-3 (Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas dissenting).

The other really big case is called (amusingly enough) "Grokster."  It's about internet file-sharing, specifically, whether the manufacturer of technology that is widely used to pirate music and movies online can be sued for copyright violations (the manufacturer does not participate in the theft, but is aware that its product is mostly used for illegal purposes).  I am not an intellectual property lawyer, but a lot of people in that world are very excited about this case.  The rest of the cases are less earth-shattering; a brief roundup is here.

Of course, the REALLY big question is whether Chief Justice Rehnquist, or any other Justice, will announce his or her retirement today.  That news (or lack of it) is unlikely to be known before later this afternoon; it will probably not be announced at the 10 a.m. public session at the Court, but rather will take the form of an announcement by the Court's public information office once the President has been officially informed.

The opinions will be public knowledge within the hour, although it will take a little while for them to become available online.  The best source I know of to stay up to date on what happened, what didn't happen, and what it all means, is SCOTUSblog.

Posted by David at 09:26 AM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack