Mass Revolution Now!

Another member of Massachusetts’ reality based community. Maybe honesty IS the best policy.

June 12, 2006

Election Reform in Boston

by @ 6:51 pm. Filed under Massachusetts, Election Reform, Civil Liberties

The Globe has a great article today on Boston’s efforts to reform voter registration in the wake of a Justice Department accusation that the city was violating the voting rights of Hispanic and Asian-Americans. I think the best suggestion by far is same-day registration. As was reported in the Globe in the six states where same-day registration is in place voting turnout is 5-15 percent better than in Boston. Having first hand knowledge and experience in a same-day registration state (Wisconsin) I cannot speak highly enough of the idea. I remember the 2000 election quite vividly. I was a volunteer for a massive GOTV effort at the University of Wisconsin for Gore and we were able to just pull students off of the street and get them registered. (Well that isn’t entirely true, we had to first make sure that they had a driver’s license and proof of residence.) We were able to achieve 90% voter turnour in some precincts! Can you imagine that? I am continuously mortified by the archaic voting procedures here in Massachusetts. I remember that I followed the 2004 gubernatorial campaign from Wisconsin because I knew that I would be moving to Massachusetts. I almost wasn’t able to vote because no one had ever informed me of the 20 day rule.

I also believe in at least exploring the idea of expanding election day to two days and even possibly moving the day from the traditional Tuesday. Menino doesn’t appear to be in favor of this but I think it is high time we have an honest discussion of changing the tradition of voting day in this country.  Menino also plans on pushing more voter registration in the high schools which, again, I think is a great idea.  The spirit of election reform seems to be genuine in Boston and hopefully we can capitalize on this spirit and allow Boston to be a leader in voting rights for everyone.  What does anyone else think?

April 6, 2006

House Passes Bill Attacking Free Speech

by @ 10:26 am. Filed under National, Campaign Finance Reform, Civil Liberties

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that would trample free speech while giving even more power to political parties and establishment insiders. The vote was 218-209. The House bill lifts limits on the amount parties can spend on coordinated campaigns while putting significant restrictions on contributions to 527s. (Learn more about 527s.)

(more…)

March 31, 2006

Save The Billboard!

by @ 8:39 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Civil Liberties

littlebrother.jpgThe sun is up, the temp is going up with it, the weekend is upon us, I was in a terrific mood…then I picked up the Globe. The smile is gone folks. Mitt Romney is acting more Republican everyday. Brian McGrory tells us a tale of a man who is being harassed because he dares question the actions of our “war president.” John Rosenthal owns a billboard near Fenway Pahk and he decided to start a little civic discussion, so he put up a billboard simply stating, “Little Brother Is Watching” and included a website, www.littlebrotheriswatching.com on the sign as well (by the way check out the website, it is fantastic!).

Unfortunately the Governors goons caught wind of the billboard (not like Rosenthal was hiding anything) and all of a sudden the state Outdoor Advertising Board is notifying Rosenthal that he is not in regulation and that the sign must come down. Oh yeah, your other billboard along the Pike, you know the one with the horrific message against gun violence, that might be out of regulation, too, because it is too big.

Ladies and gentlemen free speech is under attack not only nationally but now here in the “liberal bastion” as well. The case may very well be that Rosenthal’s billboard does not meet a technical requirement but Rosenthal makes a great point, would anyone challenge his billboard if it read “Support Our Troops?” (Such a billboard would be a violation as well because under the regulations the billboard Rosenthal is using must advertise something contained with in the building.) Romney wants to be the conservative darling and this is how he is proving to those right wingers that he can handle us uppity liberals. I encourage everyone to do two things: write to Willard and let him know you support free speech and support the billboard, and write to Bill Bickley at the Outdoor Advertising Board and let him know what you think as well!

Thanks to adamg at Universal Hub, he has the picture up there and I borrowed it from him.

William J. Bickley, Jr. (no email provided)
Executive Director
Massachusetts Highway Department
c/o Outdoor Advertising Division
Ten Park Plaza, Room 7362
Boston, MA 02116-3973
Tel: (617)973-7867
Fax: (617)973-8404State House
Email the Governor
Office of the Governor
Room 360
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: (617) 725-4005
(888) 870-7770 (instate use only)
FAX: (617) 727-9725
TTY: (617) 727-3666

March 27, 2006

Town Meeting Tonight On Wiretapping

by @ 8:50 am. Filed under Current Events, Civil Liberties

The ACLU of Massachusetts will be having an “emergency” town meeting tonight to discuss the facts and debunk the myths about President Bush’s illegal wiretapping of Americans.  If you can make it I think the event should be incredibly informative.  It is tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the First Church Congregational in Harvard Square.  Given the panel I think the discussion should be very lively and very informative.  After the event the floor will be open to questions.
The participants in the forum are:

CONGRESSMAN MICHAEL CAPUANO
, Eighth Congressional District of Mass.

Prof. MARY CULNAN, Expert on Information Technology and Privacy, Bentley College

JOHN ROBERTS, Former Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts

NANCY MURRAY
, Director of Education, ACLU of Massachusetts www.aclu-mass.org

March 24, 2006

Bush Amends The Constitution

by @ 8:57 am. Filed under National, Law, National Security, Civil Liberties, Russ Feingold

I am raging mad! I cannot figure out how we cannot gain any traction in terms of public support for reprimanding Bush for his actions. Today we find out that Bush, after signing the renewed Patriot Act to much fanfare, slipped in a signing statement, which basically is a statement as to how the president interprets the legislation he just signed, that said Bush does not have to obey the Congressional reporting provisions if he does not feel it necessary. That is not a cynical interpretation either, he literally and unilateralily declared that if finds briefing Congress will “impair foreign relations, antional security, the deliberative process of executive, or the performance of the executives constitutional duties,” then Bush will not have to report anything to Congress! I am not sure if anyone has advised our emporer that he is CONSTITUTIONALLY REQUIRED to “faithfully execute” the laws of the legislative branch. No freaking interpretation under the sun would allow this phrase to mean that the president can choose when he doesn’t want to execute a law.

Ugh. Senator Feingold’s censure looks better and better everyday as a reasonable way to bring some accountability back to the Oval Office and way to bring some power back to the self-neutered Congress.

March 23, 2006

More Regulation Won’t Make Driving Safer

by @ 10:49 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

Maybe it is my crazy libertarian streak or perhaps it is some twisted enjoyment of getting messed up in sensitive subjects but I have to disagree with Joan Vennochi’s call for tougher government regulation of teen drivers.

There is no doubt that what happened to the students at St. John’s Prep in Danvers is an absolute tragedy. I think it is clear, too, that teen drivers pose a unique risk that other drivers don’t due to teen’s inexperience on the road and youthful invincibility. However, I think the tragedy also shows that further regulation does not neutralize these unique risks. The driver of the vehicle was subject to regulations that I wasn’t when I persued my driver’s license. He had to follow the graduated drivers requirements that so many states have put in place yet he has fallen prey to exactly the same tragedy that has, and will, plague teen drivers for decades. For some reason those involved and touched by this tragedy think that one failed regulation deserves another, stronger, regulation. The issue involved in the tragedy seems to be bad judgment. There is no regulation for bad judgment. I believe it is reasonable to impose limits on the age a driver can get behind the wheel as well as regulations that require a minimum level of training. However, regulations that are intended to improve the judgment of a driver, to regulate the actions of a driver, are never going to go far enough to succeed in actually eliminating or dramatically reducing the bad behavior.

This issue dovetails the latest push in Massachusetts for banning cell phones while driving. Such a regulation is haphazard, picked out of a hat, attempt to insulate bad judgment. Why cell phones and not changing cds, something just as distracting and just as common and ubiquitous as cell phones? Why age 17 for a license as some propose and not 18? These lines are arbitrary and bear no real effect on the desired outcome. Once we have placed reasonable regulations, which I think already exist, then we as a society can only educate until we are blue in the face on the dangers of those who wish to live outside of the regulations. We cannot reasonably expect further regulation will bring compliance. We must acknowledge at some point more regulation will not mean more safety. I believe that it is the job of parents, teachers, friends, the entire community to step in where regulations and laws stop to educate young drivers and distracted drivers on the dangers of the road.

March 15, 2006

Jacoby Argues For Discrimination

by @ 8:30 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Civil Liberties

Jeff Jacoby has another winner piece in today’s Globe. Jacoby asserts that the “gay movement” is so bent on “gay adoption normalization” that the movement’s supporters are willing to sacrafice the interests of the children.  (Mass Resistance Watch has a good riff on the Jacoby piece too.) That argument is silly. If anything both sides would be guilty of ignoring the welfare of the children because the debate is not centered around whether kids are safe in gay homes (because they are and the discriminators know that so they don’t want to highlight this) but whether we should allow homosexuals to adopt. The debate is centered on the adults, not the children so neither side is ignoring the interests of the children because we have established that a gay household is as effective as raising children as a straight household.

The real meat of Jacoby’s argument comes at the end. Jacoby’s real beef is that supporters of gay adoption approach the issue using

the language of openness, tolerance, and diversity, yet one freseeable effect of their success is intolerance and discrimination.

That was actually Jacoby quoting Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon. Basically the argument is that those we are seeking equal rights are discriminating against those who discriminate. This is akin to a rich white guy complaining he can’t get a break because we now want to make sure people have equal opportunity. Perhaps Professor Glendon and Mr. Jacobs would like to see the Civil Rights Act of 1964 repealed. Afterall, this law prohibits employers who believe that blacks are just intellectually and physically inferior from enforcing their views by refusing to hire blacks. I am sure Professor Glendon is an exceptional mind and a great professor but what if Harvard held the belief that women shouldn’t teach law? Yes, I suppose we do in fact discriminate against beliefs when we seek to stamp out discrimination. The difference is that the Catholic Church wants to create a clause that allows people to object based on their conscience which means those adoption agencies who hate Hispanics can make sure that they cannot adopt. And if the Catholic Church only wanted a “narrowly” defined clause for allowing discrimination, one that would only apply to churches, I ask why are the beliefs of religious institutions superior to those of individuals?

If people want to hate that is their business. But a government cannot condone the vicious marginalization and discrimination of one group against another. The purpose of government is to protect and allowing the Catholic Church to deny children loving homes simply because it does not like the lifestyle of two individuals would be a spectacular failure by the government to protect. As for projection perhaps Jacoby is displaying some himself by trying to project his discriminatory ways back onto the people he discriminates against.

March 14, 2006

Religious Freedom NOT At Stake

by @ 10:50 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Civil Liberties

I haven’t approached the issue of gay adoption rationally. My two posts on the subject have been somewhat knee jerk and reactionary. Today’s op-ed piece by John Garvey, Dean of Boston College Law School, had me look more critically at the issue. He raised legitimate points that need addressing like the fact that courts have exempted, on certain issues, churches from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For instances the state cannot force the Church or a mosque to install a female priest or imam. However I am sure that the Church as an employer cannot discriminate when hiring the janitor or a secretary so his argument is a little misleading.

Garvey reminded me that religious freedom deserves the same protection as any other freedom. I would protest as loudly at any state attempt to prohibit me from joining any religion I wanted as I would when states seek to tell me who I can and cannot marry. The issue with Catholic Charities is one of the most complicated a free society faces, what to do when rights collide. The issue then is whether adoption, and facilitating in the adoption process, are central parts of the Church. If adoption is a religious expression then the state cannot force members of the Church to participate in something that is contrary to their beliefs. However, if adoption is not a religious expression then a state has the right to place reasonable regulations on the adoption process and the Church must obey these regulations or remove itself from the business of adoption.

I think it is safe to conclude that adoption is not a fundamental tenent of Church teachings. The process of adopting a child is not a religious expression. When a religious institution chooses to operate in non-regilious settings it cannot claim that it is exempt from the rules simply because it is a religion. Forcing the Church to follow this state’s antidiscrimination laws is necessay to protect the individual rights of homosexuals to exist on equal footing (it is sad that is requires a law). If the Church does not want to support homosexual families by adopting to them then it must make the difficult decision to abandon the adoption business. Religious freedom is not being threatened. What is being threatened though is the right of individuals to start a family, something I think is guaranteed by our Constitution. The Catholic Charities deserve enormous credit for the tremendous work they have done in sending children to loving familes. However, if they want to continue this work they must recognize that in the eyes of the law we are all equal, and I would hope the same is realized that we are all equal in the eyes of God as well.

Wind Blows Romney In A New Direction, Again

by @ 9:12 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

I think Romney is speaking some sort of code to the conservatives in the Republican Party. For the billionth time since Romney took office he is somewhat reversing course after initially approaching an issue in an Atila the Hun fashion. The latest issue is gay adoption. Romney has been travelling the country telling Republican audiences that every child “has a right to a mother and a father.” When the Bishops here in Massachusetts said that they wanted an exception to out state’s antidiscrimination laws Romney promised to deliver, he complained that our we need to discriminate in order to protect rights (how messed up is that?). Romney isn’t changing his position so much as he is back peddling just a little. The Governor is still seeking an exemption for the Catholic Charities but now he is recognizing the “legimate interests” of gay parents in the adoption process. Romney says he will seek to limit any legislation he files so it is limited to exempt religious organizations. And that is where the code comes into play, he will still travel the country being against gay adoption and homosexuals in general but now whenever he comes “home” to Mass he will have to soften his language and just give a wink to the Republicans so they know he doesn’t mean what he says to us tree hugging, Brikenstock wearing, latte drinking…

What bothers me about Romney’s approach is the way he plays the Republican strategy of divide and conquer. The Republicans win elections because they take controversial issues and create an us versus them mentality in which people feel like the Democrats are out to take everything good from people and give it away. Romney plays right into this strategy by declaring that people are using the antidiscrimination laws as a

threat to religious freedom [because they] put the rights of adults over the needs of children

This could hardly be the case. Those who want to see the antidiscrimination laws enforced are interested in the needs of children and the needs of adults simultaneously. We can achieve the goal of serving the best interest of the child by making sure that adoptions are happen in a maximized environment, meaning that there is a huge pool of loving parents looking to start a family. While allowing gay adoptions we create such a pool while also maintaining the rights of adults. This issue can’t be painted as people want to make sure that some have rights and others do not. Children have a right to be in a safe home that will protect and provide for them and adults have the right to be free of unncessary discrimination. Those of us who support gay adoption want to serve the rights and needs of all, those who want to allow the discrimination are interested only in serving a small, narrow minded constituency.

March 13, 2006

Feingold Calls for Presidential Censure

by @ 10:49 am. Filed under National, Election '08, Civil Liberties, Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold has a great solution to the President’s all too frequent flouting of the law: censure him. Yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Feingold announced that he has created a resolution by which the Senate, and I presume the House, can censure President Bush for pretending he had authority which he didn’t to wiretap American citizens. I think this is a very sensible plan that should, but won’t, attract bipartisan support. My personal belief is that the actions by this administration, from day one, constitute high crimes and misdemeanors, but I also am a little hesitant to push for impeachment because I think that that route is a very, very serious step and should be used sparingly (I also don’t want to look like the Republican gang that impeached Clinton). Censure gives Congress a way to get back some of the power it has ceded to this president while simultaneously holds the President accountable for his actions. Kudos to my hero Russ. I think this demonstrates Sen. Feingold’s continued adherence to principle in a manner that isn’t strictly determined to bury his political enemies.

The Washington Post also has the story, including Sen. Bill Frist’s response (which was nonsensical in its claim that the censure would be a sign of weakness, as if the president’s flaming poll numbers and the fact that America is not happy with our direction isn’t indicating America’s dissatisfaction!). The Senate website provides info on what censure is and how it has been used. Sen. Feingold’s Senate website also has a statement and fact sheet as well. Don’t forget to check out Mass for Feingold!

Update: I just received an email from Feingold’s Progressive Patriot’s Fund asking to support his censure by signing his petition. I encourage anyone who wants to see the President censured for his actions to sign the petition! Also, take five minutes and read the censure resolution, it is a simple read and well put together.

March 2, 2006

Another State To Follow South Dakota

by @ 8:14 am. Filed under National, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

Unfortunately Mississippi is planning on joining the ranks of states that do not believe in the individual rights. Apparently emboldened after South Dakota’s disgusting passage of a law the completely outlaws abortion, the Mississippi Legislature is moving forward a bill that will ban abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. This means that even cases of rape and incest an abortion will be illegal.

This is absolute nonsense. I am in no way a proponent of promoting abortions or encouraging women to seek out abortions but there is no doubt that women have a right to make their own medical decisions. Instead of wasting time and energy on outlawying the procedure why doesn’t Mississippi spend time and energy improving their near worst in the nation education system? Why doesn’t Mississippi spend its time and energy to demand more help for reconstructing its devastated coast? Why doesn’t Mississippi spend its time and energy creating better paying, more secure jobs? Time spent on these issues will have a direct effect in reducing the number of abortions in the state. If we can address, “correct,” and thereby reduce the scenarios which lead to pregnancies ending in abortion then we don’t need to pass useless and unconstitutional laws that strip individuals of their rights while simultaneously contributing to improving society by better educating and fully employing individuals. Such a message can hardly be tough to sell.

February 24, 2006

South Dakota Stays on Dark Path

by @ 5:14 pm. Filed under National, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

The South Dakota House of Representatives has passed the nearly all-out abortion ban passed earlier in the week by the Senate. As I mentioned earlier it is likely that the governor will sign the bill as he is a life long anti-choice individual. I think it is sad that a state would so amazingly thumb its nose at choice but what worries me more is the federal implications. The purpose of this bill, in my opinion, is clearly to test the new, more conservative Supreme Court. I am starting to get a little worried.

February 22, 2006

South Dakota Senate Gets It Wrong

by @ 9:59 pm. Filed under National, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

Well South Dakota is one step closer to outlawing abortion in all forms except when the mother’s life is at risk. The state wanted to create a case to challenge Roe v. Wade and I feel pretty confident the South Dakotan House will pass the measure as well. Sadly, the bill is sponsored by at least one Democrat, Julie Bartling, who is obviously female as well and apparently does not believe that she is capable of making decisions for herself, she needs a government’s guidance I guess. Her thoughts on the bill? In her own words:

It is the time for the South Dakota Legislature to deal with this issue and protect the lives and rights of unborn children.

Let’s hope either the House or the Governor will get some sense. Though don’t count on Governor Mike Rounds, he has said he will “look favorably” on such a bill. First we have the gay bashing Rev. Phelps, now we have the nut jobs of an elected body passing a law that is unconstitutional. Some days the news isn’t much fun.

February 15, 2006

Help Stop The Wiretapping

by @ 12:07 pm. Filed under Democrats, National, Civil Liberties

Sen. Feingold has started a petition demanding that President Bush stop his illegal wiretapping ways. I just received an email from Sen. Feingold asking for more signatures. His goal was 10,000 and they are only about 1,500 short. Please sign the petition. Let us show President Bush that the people are paying attention and we want answers! Also, check out Sen. Feingold’s Progressive Patriot’s Fund to see what else he is up to.

Here is the text of the email:

We’re almost to our goal of 10,000 signatures, and we can make it if we ask our friends to stand up for their beliefs as well. Please tell five friends about our petition, and ask them to sign it as well.

When I questioned Attorney General Gonzales recently, I was deeply disturbed by his answers. As I said during the hearing, the President and his administration have been violating the law and are misleading the American public in order to justify their actions.

Attorney General Gonzales wasn’t honest with me during his confirmation hearings and I am concerned that we still do not know the full scope of the administration’s activities. Please ask your friends to help us call for an end to the warrentless surveillance of American citizens. In our country, no one is above the law.

February 10, 2006

Call Bush’s Bluff

by @ 9:21 am. Filed under National, National Security, Civil Liberties

Bush needs to be called out on his attempt to trick us into supporting programs like the Patriot Act and his illegal wiretapping. Yesterday, while speaking in front of the National Guard Association the president revealed details of a supposed attemp to attack Library Tower in Los Angeles. The administration is touting the thwarted plot as a defense of the illegal programs that deny us our civil liberties. Bush remarked:

As the West Coast plot shows, in the war on terror, we face a relentless and determined enemy.

Bush’s homeland security advisor, Frances Townsend, said that stopping the plot against LA attack proves

the importance of real-time information sharing paired with internation cooperation and detainee interrogations. It also reminds us that we must gather as much information as possible from all sources.

When asked, Townsend wouldn’t say whether domestic programs had any effect in stopping the LA attack. And this is where my beef lies. Bush and his cronies are so in need of gaining the public’s trust again that they are abusing what little trust the still possess. By creating the impression that the plan was stopped because of the Patriot Act or the wiretapping Bush is misleading us again. If the administration cold release teh details of the plot and the subsequent capture of the the plotters, they could also release the avenues used to secure these arrests. If the Bush administration relied on any of the domestic programs that are so unpopular he would have said so as an attempt to prove he was right all along. Instead they are trying to draw false connections and baiting Americans, as usual, with fear instead of facts. We need to remind our friends and neighbors who might fall prey to this loose argument that Bush still has offered no conclusive proof that the wiretapping or Patriot Act were necessary in securing the individuals responsible. We should also remind people that the arrests and detainment of the suspects all took place on foreign rather than American soil.

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