07 January 2006

The Last Word on Reilly and Worcester?

At Blue Mass Group, FrankSkeffington has a diary that pretty much sums up the doings in the imbroglio over medical records inwhich Reilly entangled himself. The Worcester DA, John Conte, basically cleared everything up, shifting blame (and apparently, rightly so) onto the Northborough Police Chief Mark Leahy.
Finally Conte to the rescue (or for today at least), who takes an infinitely better approach to managing the press circus than Reilly (who is spending a lot more money, both state and campaign dollars, paying people to manage the media than Conte).
Instead of calling a media circus...err media conference and then start whining and crying, Conte gave private press interviews to key press people: the Globe,the Herald, NECN (find clip on the Globe link) and I don't know who else.
Among the facts Conte gave: Chief Leahy had the toxicology info he needed to determine if the driver was drunk. And most importantly, Chief Leahy could have filed charges on his own, if he wanted. (This is true; any individual can file misdemeanor charges in district court. So if any yahoos want to push this...they can file charges against the "host" of the party and see what happens.) Thanks to Conte, it appears that Reilly can at least spend the majority of his time doing something other than back-tracking, stumbling and other-wise poorly explaining his actions and motives. He is not, however, out of the proverbial woods, not by a longshot:

But the potential good news here (Conte backs up Reilly and blames the Police Chief) still does not outweigh the damage this has done for Reilly...who will be haunted with this. Nor does the managing of this crisis speak well for Reilly and his people's ability to handle the big time. They can learn a lesson from Conte.
If Reilly does survive this it's going to be in spite of himself and because of Conte. This should not have been a big enough deal to warrant four days of serious coverage, including some national coverage. Reilly needs to rethink his approach to confronting these things (perhaps by adopting Conte's methods) or he's not going to have to worry about this coming back to bite him because something worse is bound to come down the pipe. I think Conte just gave the AG a freebie; he'd better realize it if he wants to stick around.

UPDATE: Apparently, it was a good thing that I used a question mark in the post-title. The Sunday Globe is chock-full of articles pertaining to Reilly's involvement in this case and the social host law itself. Also, a Greater Boston that aired this morning had a lengthy roundtable discussion on the mess. I may have jumped the gun on this being over and done.

And What A Wonderful Weekend It's Proving to Be

Yay! The sun is shining, there's great college basketball on, NFL playoffs start in a couple hours, The Female Companion has the day off and, to top it all off, Tom Delay is relinquishing his Majority Leader status. Every once in a while, the world spins at just the right speed.

Better yet, he's adamant about running for re-election in November, which is good news for two reasons: (1) He's, as you might expect, a little vulnerable against any legitimate (read: breathing) Democratic candidate, and Nick Lampson is more than legitimate. (2) If he does end up getting hauled off to jail or so embroiled in scandal that even he decides his candidacy is a lost cause, any replacement will have no momentum and be introduced late in the election cycle, making it even easier for Lampson to take the seat. It's still far from a given that Lampson will win the seat, but with every day and every relevation about Delay's thuggery, chicanery and out-and-out illegal behavior, it gets just a little bit easier for him.

On 5 December, SwingStateProject ran a CNN/Gallup poll that had an un-named Democrat leading Delay 49-36. The same poll showed Delay only 37% of his constituents had a favorable opinion of him, with 52% unfavorable. Things have only gotten worse for the Hammer since then. The only thing that worries me is the 3% gap vbetween his unfavorables (52%) and those who would vote for "Democrat" (49%), and the 1% gap the other way (36% approve, 37% vote). As I said, it's not a long shot, but it's no slam dunk either.

06 January 2006

Happy Friggin Weekend

Ron: "Look, the most glorious rainbow ever."
Veronica: "Do me on it!."

Happy Friday, and as a reward: THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY, from Ezra Klein. And as Ezra said: Screw those SNL kids, this is the best thing ever on the internets. I will second that e-motion.

Duke Cunningham

That, my internaut friends, is a pun. What makes it a pun, you ask? The disgraced, bribe-taking, influence-peddling former Republican Rep. from California is no fox, you think. Ah, but you think wrong, in this case. Time magazine tells us just show shifty the old man was (or at least how willing to cooperate):
Sources familiar with the situation say Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to taking $2.4 million in bribes — including a yacht, a Rolls Royce and a 19th Century Louis-Philippe commode — from a defense contractor, wore a wire at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28.

The identity of those with whom the San Diego congressman met while wearing the wire remains unclear, and is the source of furious — and nervous — speculation by congressional Republicans.
Dead Man Walking!

What we can say, what must be changed

I have very, incredibly little to add to this eloquent, moving and, above all, substantive post by ReddHedd from firedoglake. To make you click through, here's a portion:
We have lost our way in this country in terms of values. I don't mean in the wingy sort of way in which values are usually discussed, where you say a bunch of superficial nonsense about gays getting married and the country going to hell as a result, either. That's just another one of those fear tactics stirred up by political types who want to play divide and conquer to win elections by working the ends against the middle.

No, what I'm talking about goes deeper into who we are, into issues of where we ought to be. And these are issues that Democrats used to be for, in the not so distant past, but they have all but disappeared from the discussion in the last few years. I'm going to talk about this more as time goes on toward the elections in the Fall, but this morning it is eating at me as I listen to local news updates from the mine and find out that the miners left notes for those they left behind -- those notes cry out to me to get off my butt and do something.
And, she does get off her butt and she crafts a potential message more holistic than any I can remember coming across on the vast internet. Reasserting traditional Democratic belief in education, social programs and safety nets, she wants a return a time when "the party spent time working on issues that lifted up the least of our nation, to give them a shot at the American dream, just like everyone else."

The money:
But it isn't enough that I want more for myself and my family. Every person in this nation needs to wake up and realize that they deserve more as well. That's a message that Democrats could take to the bank, I'm sure of it. I know it is a message that would resonate here in West Virginia. People are hungry for hope, they are hungry for someone who will value them -- and not just use them as a pawn.

More than that, they deserve to be valued. It's a question of doing what is right, not just what is politically expedient in the moment to win the election or raise more money or whatever else seems to be driving political power these days. Let's give the little guy a voice again -- help him to stand on his own two feet and make something for his children, and you help the whole country. That goes for moms, too, I can tell you that.
I think it's time for all of us to get off our butts now, because, increasingly, the American Dream is relegated to being precisely that, something that disappears from reality the moment you open your eyes.

More on AG Reilly

Reilly, as quoted by Brian McGrory in this morning's Globe:

Reilly added, ''The law is very clear on this, that autopsy records are not public records. Did I try to protect the family's privacy? Yes, I did. But in a criminal investigation, it's clearly relevant"
''Those girls made a tragic mistake that night, and they paid for it with their lives. Everything else is irrelevant. I'm irrelevant. For the father to see the pictures of his daughters again in the papers -- they can't take any more."

I asked him if he regretted making the phone call that has caused such a political firestorm, and he didn't hesitate.

''Protecting that family and their private medical records -- no, I don't regret making that call and keeping those records confidential," he replied. ''I would do that for any family to protect their rights and their deceased children's rights. There are real people involved here, two parents and a brother who have lost their daughters and their sister. That's bad enough; don't make it any worse."

It's mentioned in a second piece that "over the course of his career made similar calls to protect the privacy of families. When pressed, he would not detail those circumstances."

To be honest, I don't care if he did it to be a friend or to be a good Attorney General, although it certainly ended up as both. As both articles point out, autopsy records are private, confidential. Reilly's phonecall to the Worcester DA John J. Conte, was then, for all intents and purposes, a reminder to follow the written law in not releasing the records. It has nothing to do with the criminal investigation, which clearly had more than enough evidence that she had been drinking and that alcohol was likely a factor in the crash. There were witnesses aplenty who saw her drinking vodka that night. The media have no reason to see that autopsy without the parents' consent.

Perhaps what we've forgotten about in the rush to figure this story out is that two young women are dead. The two daughters of a couple who just happen to be friends with our state's Attorney General. Reilly seems the only one the past two days who's done a good job at reminding us of the human element involved. Perhaps it's to make him seem more compassionate. Perhaps he is that compassionate.

Gov. Romney, on the other hand, will never be accused of any such thing:

Yesterday, Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey both said that Reilly's telephone call to Conte appeared to be an attempt to stifle an investigation by the Northborough Police Department. Romney said the attorney general's action contradicts recent efforts on Beacon Hill to crack down on drunk driving.

''Hushing up of circumstances or giving the appearance that there will be a hushing up of circumstance is something which I think suggests that the attorney general may not have gotten the message that is emanating from this building," Romney told a State House press conference, which had been called for another topic.
The message emanating from Willard's building is that he doesn't care about a single resident of this state, and that he never has. From duck trips to fundraisers to pejorative comments on duck trips and fundraisers, we are all assured that W. Mitt simply doesn't care too much for or about his constituents.

It's possible Reilly stifled an ongoing investigation, though I'm hestitant to believe that not releasing the records actually interfered with the investigation, given the preponderance of other evidence. But, at least, through it all, Reilly showed himself to be a compassionate person who, for whatever reason, did the right thing --- as a person, an AG,and a potential governor.

05 January 2006

Vouchers Out in Florida

In a spectacular decision for those of us who not only think, but know, that school vouchers are a terrible idea educationally and, ahem, unconstitutional to boot, The Florida Supreme Court struck down Gov. Jeb Bush's voucher program, which he considered a hallmark of his administration. Forgetting for a moment about allowing parents to use tax dollars to attend religious schools, i.e., the unconstitutionality of the whole idea, let's think about what a voucher program means for public schools.

If parents begin flooding private schools under the voucher program, those tax dollars do not go to the public school system in which the child would be enrolled. Therefore, the public school becomes even more underfunded, and more parents find a way to enroll their children elsewhere --- or worse, their child (or children) continue to attend the now-more-floundering public school. Yet somehow, Gov. Bush decries the Fl. Supreme Court's decision as
"a sad day for accountability in our state," Bush said. He said the voucher program had a positive effect because it "put pressure on school districts to focus on the underperforming schools."
How on earth would it be possible to remedy any of the issues surrounding the "underperforming schools" with less money coming in? The Governor is, by virtue of the voucher law, in fact absolving himself of accountability: Hey, they didn't have to go that school with the peeling paint, bullet holes and 47 kids to a room. They had vouchers. It's their fault they didn't choose Holy Jesus' Academy of Intelligent Design. After all, Gov. Bush actually said, "School choice is as American as apple pie in my opinion. ... The world is made richer and fuller and more vibrant when you have choices." Yet, as Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her opinion, the program "diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools." Public schools and private schools compete for students without the added advantage of vouchers. The parallel system exists without government intervention. If anything, the added tax revenue gives the private systems a leg up.

I'm not saying that merely throwing money at the problem is the answer, but as we've learned in just about every social program, less money is never an answer. Especially when it comes at the cost of the safety and education of our children. Though to hear Clark Neily, an attorney who argued the case for voucher advocates, tell the story, the underperforming nature of public schools is a fait accompli. He called the decision "a setback for those parents and children trapped in failing schools."

I'm leaving the Constitution out of this, hoping that The Good Doctor will take some time out of his hectic lawyer-like schedule to say it right, since I'd only mess it up.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has some thoughts on this, including more on the foolish accountability notion floated by Gov. Bush.

Pat Robertson

Just when you thought the old bat couldn't possibly top the old adage, "gays, liberals responsible for 9-11," he gives you "gays responsible for Katrina" and "it's okay to assassinate Hugo Chavez". And he's not even done yet! (From ... everywhere)
ROBERTSON: I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person. I am sad to see him in this condition.

But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his.

You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine."

And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead.

And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America.

God said, "This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone."

Given the time and inclination, I could probably use my "liberal Jesus theology powers" to dissect this and prove him wrong using as many or more biblical citations as he does. But I don't have the inclination and he doesn't deserve the time. I would suggest we simply point and laugh, but someone, somewhere, is nodding in approval. I can only hope that every denomination in the country gets out a press release (STAT) disavowing this kind of revisionist exegesis.

Oh hell, here's a couple refutations off the top of my head: Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, Rome, Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, Ottomans, The British Empire and the UN have all "divided" God's land in the past. "All heathens, all in hell," the old coot would respond. Okay, then how about Jacob, Israel himself, who divided the land among his twelve sons? How about Solomon who re-apportioned the land during his reign? How about the division between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms during the Late Iron Age? And I haven't even gotten to 800 BC yet.
Okay, I need to stop before I get far too worked up about something and someone no one takes seriously.

Trust and the T

A Dispatch From "Abigail Adams":

Last week on the train this woman got on and immediately started making an annoucement about how she had lost her change purse which carried the $40 she needed to catch a bus home. She apologized and said she was embarassed, that she wasn't a scumbag or a beggar and that if she didn't get the money she would have to wait for hours for a ride. The people on the train gave her money, myself included. She made friends with a woman and they got off together so the woman could make change or something to give her more money.

Today, the same woman gets on. She immediately launches into the same speech about losing her change purse, that she had on expensive clothes that she was willing to sell (but had lost her ID?), etc. A man stands up and says that he has no small bills, only $100, and if he had less he would give it to her. She starts asking him if he'll go make change, but they decide that getting a $100 bill changed was not likely. The man was extremely nice to her and started yelling at everyone else on the train to help her, and one woman offered to go to an ATM to take money out.

I'm wondering if i'm the only person that recognized her. It was a little depressing to see because you know there are people that really do need help, and she came on the train to get sympathy from everyone, which she did very well. If other people recognized her, she ruins their trust and then they're reluctant to help people in the future.


Two Potential MA Governors

cross-posted at Blue Mass Group

What are we, as potential voters in the 2006 race, supposed to make of Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R) and Atty. General Thomas Reilly (D)? Well, on the issue of privacy, this morning's Globe shows where both might be expected to come down. First, Healey is supporting New Bedford's plan to begin drug-testing at its public schools, starting at age 11. Healey is backing the New Bedford program and said the city's decision to start drug testing could be a model for other communities.

Let's see where Democratic frontrunner Reilly stands on another clear privacy issue, this time a battle over the release of private medical records, which could reveal whether an underage girl was intoxiacted when she died:
These are private medical records, and they were not public records and should not be released," Reilly said last night on ''Greater Boston" on WGBH-TV.

Asked about his involvement, Reilly added: ''I've had many conversations with district attorneys on cases, but, first and foremost, it was the family and the suffering they'd gone [through]. This shouldn't have even gotten this far; this family suffered enough."
Reilly, as AG, is the state's top prosecutor. And yet, here he is, standing up for the privacy of a victim and standing in the way of a possible convinction. Often, an AG seeking higher office would jump on this the other way, demanding justice at every turn, laws and principles be damned.

You'll find no such principled argument from Healey. Drug-testing in public schools, acceded to by parents or not, is a lame attempt to pander to every parent's fears when they send their children off to school. For Healey to stand behind this program demonstrates exactly where she'll stand on privacy issues amd education in Massachusetts should she be elected. Right alongside the Republican Congress, which is pushing this program on schools across the country.

A parent summarizes just how indicative this program is of the larger Republican effort to sacrifice civil liberties in favor of a potentialallayance of fear:
Kim Silva's 16-year-old son has straight As, plays sports, and is a diabetic; she said she does not think he's a drug user. Her daughter, who is 10, will not be eligible for the program until next year, but Silva said she is leaning toward signing them up.

What is it going to hurt? she said. I'd rather know. It would make them think twice.
Sounds precisely like the defense we're hearing about illegal wiretaps, no?

I've not made a decision on whether to support Reilly or Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary. I've been satisfied with both of them, though not impressed by either. This morning's news, however, makes it all the more clear that returning the Governor's office to a Democrat is important not just for the big battles like gay marraige and social programs, but for these seemingly small ones. As we've seen on a national scale, if you give an inch on privacy ... you know the rest.

UPDATE: Thanks to several comments at Blue Mass Group, I have to say I looked at this from the wrong angle entirely. The girl's father is a friend and campaign contributor of Reilly's, so there's clearly a potentially suspect motive as well as a prinicpled one. Also, I didn't see the 'Greater Boston' from which the Globe quotes, but it appears that Reilly just stonewalled his interviewer. In respect to Healey, I still obviously think that Reilly's a better choice, but I may have been too willing to praise him in order to blame her.