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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Constitutional Amendment

Sent to Boston Globe
December 28, 2006

The members of the legislature are now under great pressure to vote on the Constitutional amendment on the definition of marriage: that marriage is between one man and one woman (Vote on gay marriage is due but can't be forced, SJC says. Boston Globe, December 28, 2006, p: A1).
They should do so, but they should vote in accord with the principle that the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of minorities, not to restrict them. Democracy easily turns into demagoguery and it is demagoguery to insist that our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors should not have the right to marry.
They should not vote on the basis of their religious beliefs. They should not vote in favor of the amendment because the Archbishop told them to, or their Minister told them  to, or even that their constituents told them to.
The members of the legislature should vote unanimously against this amendment.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sharing the Sacrifice

December 24th. 2006
Published in the New York Times, December 27th. 2006.

Any serious reconsideration of our strategy in Iraq must go far beyond Iraq. There must be a change In America itself.
Up to now,  the burden of the war has been born by those fighting and their families. To be credible, the President must also demand sacrifice from the rest of us. At the very least, a war tax should be imposed so that we pay for the war rather than passing the cost on to our children.
Anything less would show the President to be uninterested in prosecuting the war and singly intersested in trying to protect his ego.

New York Times version [Please scroll Down]

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Arizona Ballot

December 11th. 2006
Published in the New York Times Magazine, December 24th. 2006

The idea introduced to Arizona is one of the sillier ideas of the year. It is likely that adding an extrinsic reward (the hope of a lottery prize) to the vote will reduce the voters concentration on the election issues. It may get the voter to the poll -- and in Arizona there is a disincentive to vote as juries are drawn from the election rolls rather than from residency rolls -- but the voter's only goal will be to vote rather than to vote sensibly.
If you are interested there is an unpublished op-ed here
and a discussion of the issue by Professors of Organizational Behavior here:
New York Times Magazine version [ Please scroll down]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iraq Troop Levels

December 20th. 2006
Sent to but not published in the Boston Globe

Your report (Bush seeks to expand strained military, Boston Globe, December 20, 2006: page A2) suggests that President Bush is planning on deploying up to 35,000 more troops to Iraq. This is the very worst of the four alternatives he could have chosen; withdrawal; maintain the status quo, small troop increase; massive troop increase.
I would favor the withdrawal option; but if we are to increase troop levels then only a massive increase will have any chance of success.
Before the war began General Eric Shinseki estimated that we would need several hundred thousand troops for the occupation of Iraq. We should note that he was talking about an Iraq in the immediate aftermath of defeat by American troops. That is he was talking about a subdued Iraq. Three years later, Iraq is at war with itself, so it stands to reason that a large infusion of troops will be required to subdue the insurgency and return the streets of Baghdad to peace and to retake Anbar province. If the General was talking abut 200,000 occupying troops in 2002/3, the required number now must be at least 300,000 troops for the pacification of Iraq.
If that number is impossible to provide, then we should withdraw. Sending in a relatively small additional contingent would make little difference to our pacification efforts and just put more troops at risk. That is totally unacceptable.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Decider Vacillates

December 13th. 2006
Sent to but not published in the New York Times

So the great decider, cannot decide what to do in Iraq. George Bush's aphorism "I'm the decider" was a paraphrase of Harry Truman's "The buck stops here." As Bush shilly-shallies, young men and women are dying in Iraq. If he cannot decide in a timely fashion, the President should take to heart another of Truman's sayings "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." He should step down and let his Vice-President take the decisions -- if he is not doing so already.

Perhaps Cheney with his impeccable marksmanship could go Iraq and lead some patrols in person, to compensate for the more important priorities he had during the Vietnam era. There is a precedent. The neo-cons' darling, Winston Churchill, after being ousted from the Cabinet commanded a regiment in the trenches during World War I.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Patrick Stumbles

December 7th. 2006
Sent to but not published in the Boston Globe

Forget about the inaugural extravaganza, there are more serious mistakes being made by the new Patrick administration. Just hours after being selected, Leslie Kirwan, the new head of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, started making suggestions about the new administration's budgetary ideas: allowing cities to raise fees and meal taxes.

She did this before she could have possibly explored whether or not there were real savings from waste in the budget. She did this before the Patrick/Murray working group on Budget and Finance had completed its task.

So was Ms. Kirwan speaking on her own account? Are the working groups meaningless? Are they just there to provide window dressing but with no real purpose?

Deval Patrick owes us some answers.

Full disclosure: I was a volunteer for Deval Patrick during the gubernatorial campaign.