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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Catholics and Marriage

Dear Editor:

I agree on constitutional grounds that the Catholic proponents of the marriage amendment have the right to an up or down vote in the issue in the Constitutional Convention next week (Bishops push for a vote on marriage, Boston Globe, October 31, 2006; B1, B5). However, I hope the amendment is voted down.

Why would the Church try to destroy the families of our gay friends and neighbors?

In any case, why would anyone listen to the Catholic Church on any family value issue? This is the Church that protected pedophile predator priests for many years. This is the Church whose Cardinal called down the Wrath of God on the media for publishing allegations of the pedophilia that was on going in the Church -- talk about taking the word of the Lord in vain!

No, on family issues, the Catholic Church deserves to stay in the purgatory of irrelevancy for the next two dozen years.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Needed Electoral Reform

Your comment on the incongruity of the same person running the election as administrator and running in the election as candidate (And the Winner Is ... Me, New York Times, October 17th. 2006. A 22) touches only the tip of the iceberg of needed reform.

Most other jurisdictions in democratic societies separate the administration of elections from partisan influence. The Chief Elections Officer, who runs the elections, assigns staff and voting machines to precincts, and counts the vote is a Civil Servant subject to the discipline of Civil Service regulations and not beholden to any particular party. This is not the situation in most of the States in the US where the person responsible for running the election is usually a functionary of the political party in power. This has to be changed.

Second, we must move toward a system of campaign financing that depends on public funding rather than private donation. This last will be difficult to achieve because of the Supreme Court rulings that financial donations to politicians and Political Action Committees are protected by First Amendment free speech provisions. To undo this a long run strategy of a Constitutional amendment will be necessary. One step in the right direction can be achieved by a change in a totally different arena: licensing radio and television stations. Most money in election campaigns goes to a media blitz. If TV and Radio outlets were required, as they are in the UK and Canada, to provide access to political candidates then the necessity for candidates to advertise would diminish. Congress should take the necessary legislative action so that new rules can be in place for the next round of license renewals.

Third, as we have seen in Texas and elsewhere, Electoral Districts are often drawn by the legislature. Districts designed by legislators are meant to do two things: first and most important, to protect and enhance the opportunities for more seats for the majority party; and second to protect incumbents of any political stripe. Often the two major parties will horse-trade boundary lines to protect each other's incumbents. In most jurisdictions outside the USA and in some exemplary US States, redistricting is handed over to an Independent Redistricting Commission. These usually have bipartisan representation on the commission but are independent of the legislature.

These three changes will help restore democracy in the United State.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Healey's Needles

Cheri Nolan, a former federal deputy assistant attorney-general is quoted as saying that Kerry Healey is "interested in substance abuse issues. mental health issues, people who need treatment." (Criminologist group takes on Healey. Boston Globe, October 19th., 2006: B6).

In terms of substance abuse treatment, her June support of Governor Romney's veto of over-the-counter needle sales legislation substitute ideology for facts.(Boston Globe, July 1, 2006, p. B4).
If ever there was a field in which evidence based decisions are needed it is in the fight against substance abuse. For Kerry Healey not to have considered the evidence from studies showing no increase in drug use after the passage of needle sale legislation in other jurisdictions is appalling.

She is an educated woman with a social science Ph.D. so she is trained in the ability to "review the 'methodology'" of the studies. For her to have neglected to do so is an abdication of her responsibility to serve the Commonwealth by making the best possible decisions based on factual evidence.
She must be held to account for this failure.

Martin Evans is Professor Emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto where he taught research methodology for many years. He also volunteers for the Deval Patrick Campaign.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Iraq. Who Pays

Bob Herbert (New York Times, Op-Ed, October 12, 2006) is one of many who has called for shared sacrifice in the war against terror. He points out that only one group is sacrificing – members of the armed forces, their families, and, in the case of national guard members, their employers.

In the current Iraq war, America is sacrificing  three things: the lives of its young men and women, its money, and its honor.

Right now, the young are paying or potentially paying the cost of all three. The youth are those dying and maimed in Iraq. With deficit financing of the war, the young will have to pay for it in the next twenty years. Only the privates, specialists, and sergeants of Abu Ghraib have had their honor tarnished while Donald Rumsfeld continues as Secretary of Defense and John Yoo teaches at Berkeley Law.

This cannot to be allowed to continue.

As in all wars the young men and woman will have to continue to do the fighting.

We, the public, must take up the challenge of paying for the war now. It would be unconscionable to leave the financial payments to today's youth. We must devise a pay-as-you-go scheme. Inevitably this will mean raising taxes which will be anathema to the anti-tax Republican conservatives – but it is their war and our war and we and they must pay for it.

Finally, it is the administration that must pay the cost in dishonor. I think we are stuck with the President, a weak but charming fellow, who was at the mercy of his entourage. Vice-President Cheney who promulgated so many of the half truths that brought us to this war and who continues to press for CIA torture despite overwhelming evidence that torture is ineffective in eliciting accurate and timely information should do the honorable thing and resign. Resignation is also required of Secretary Rumsfeld who administered a Pentagon where with a wink and a nod torture of prisoners was countenanced, who planned an invasion with insufficient troops to stabilize a post-war Iraq, and who continues to mismanage the logistics of the war and its strategic goals. Secretary Rice who was unable to get the holidaying President to take notice of the 9/11 intelligence should also step aside.

This is what America needs, this is what our troops deserve: a shared sacrifice where the non-combatants pick up the financial cost and where the administration oligarchs pass out into the wilderness to help America restore its "sacred honor."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Green Card and Recent Legislation

Call me paranoid if you like but I am getting a little bit scared. I am a Green Card Holder and am, I hope, in the last stages of getting my U.S. citizenship. I also frequently write letters to the newspapers, mostly unpublished, decrying the actions of the current administration.
Today the President signed into law a bill that removes Habeaus Corpus safeguards from Green Card Holders if they are deemed to "give material aid" to terrorists.
If I write that terrorist suspects should receive the benefits of Habeaus Corpus, is that giving material aid?
If I write that the US reliance on the State Secrets defense in the Arar and el-Masri  cases is misguided, is that giving material aid?
If I write that retrospective legislation indemnifying US agents against war crimes is odious (Boston Globe, August 13th. 2006), is that giving material aid?
If I write that this administration has shown a contempt for international law, for the Geneva Convention, and for the Vienna Protocol on consular relations, is that giving material aid?
I hope not. But I am no longer sure and that is why I am just a little bit scared.