Push to abolish death penalty moves forward

There’s a continued push here in Colorado to abolish the death penalty:

The bill to abolish the death penalty in Colorado and create a cold case unit is moving forward in the state legislature.In a 7-4 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved the measure Wednesday. State Representative Paul Weissman, a Democrat from Louisville, says abolishing the death penalty could save millions of dollars which could go elsewhere.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am morally opposed to the death penalty. I don’t see any difference between the state killing someone or a citizen killing someone. Both are wrong.

The issue is being debated in a different way here in Colorado, though.  Instead of debating the morality of the issue,  it is being approached from a financial point-of-view.  That is just different enough that it might pass!

Report: Women misled on abortion risks

This is absolutely disgusting, assuming that the report is accurate. According to Boston.com, a report by “Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee, women are being given false, alarmist information regarding abortion risks. From the article:

Care Net, an umbrella group for evangelical pregnancy centers across the country, instructs its affiliates to tell callers there is a possibility that abortion can lead to greater risk of breast cancer, according to Molly Ford, an official with the organization. She said there have been several studies that say it does, and several that say it doesn’t.

“I know the report is wanting to say that it’s conclusive, but it isn’t,” Ford said.

None of the pregnancy centers the committee staff called was identified, and it could not be determined if any were linked to Care Net, which has helped about a quarter of the nation’s pregnancy centers begin operations.

One pregnancy center told a congressional aide the risk of cancer after an abortion could be 80 percent higher, the report noted. Ford said she doubted a pregnancy center would go that far, but the Web site for a pregnancy center in Albuquerque says the risk for cancer after an abortion is 50 percent or greater.

In February 2003, a National Cancer Institute workshop concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer. [Emphasis mine]

How disgusting is this? Are anti-choice groups really so desparate that they would flat-out like to a woman, trying to both scare her and not give her the information she needs to make an informed decision? How can one justify this? It’s a horrible practice, and a horrible thing to do to someone who is trying to face one of the hardest decisions of her life.

If you have to lie to someone to justify your beliefs, then your beliefs are probably wrong.

Flag-burning amendment

Okay, so now that the anti-flag-burning amendment has failed (by only a single vote? WTF?), could someone convince the senate to start working on things that really matter, and quit getting distracted by this election-year pandering? It’s not like this is a new debate. This has been settled for a decade!

“The First Amendment never needs defending when it comes to popular speech,” Leahy said. “It’s when it comes to unpopular speech that it needs defending.”

[..]The Texas v. Johnson case came to the court five years after Gregory Lee Johnson burned a flag at City Hall during a political demonstration at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas.

Johnson was convicted of violating state law, sentenced to a year in prison and fined $2,000. The Supreme Court ruled his arrest was unconstitutional.

Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan stated, “Johnson was not, we add, prosecuted for the expression of just any idea; he was prosecuted for his expression of dissatisfaction with the policies of this country, expression situated at the core of our First Amendment values.”

Kudos to the Republican senators who voted against this amendment, no matter what their reasons. And big time boos to all the Democrats who voted for this. Show some spine, Senators!

Qwest refused to turn over records!

Hooray for Qwest! When the NSA came knocking, asking for phone records on all of their customers, Qwest was the only major telecom carrier that refused to turn over those records!

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Denver-based Qwest refused to help the National Security Agency, sources tell USA TODAY.According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer calling information to the government without warrants.

I cannot understand why more people aren’t up-in-arms over the NSA spying. But I do hope that more people thank Qwest for daring to stand up against this invasion of our civil liberties.

Immigration reform: the will of the people

Hmmm… I think this is telling of more than people want to admit:

About 250 opponents of the immigration march, with the group Defend Colorado Now, staged their own protest on the south side of Civic Center Park.

Their protest began as the thousands of other protestors left the area.

So there were 250 people who wanted to oppose immigration reform, while 75,000 gathered in support. Do I really need to say more? No matter what some would like us to believe, public opinion seems to be overwhelmingly in support of immigration reform. Rally’s like today’s rally show that it’s only a matter of time before the will of the people is heard.

Erosion of Freedoms x 2

There are places where you expect to see people lashing out against the Bush administration’s civil liberties abuses, including DailyKos. And then there are places where you don’t expect it, such as on PC guru John C. Dvorak’s blog, Dvorak Uncensored. Dvorak takes the Bush administration to task in an entry titled “Erosion of Freedoms x 2”:

We old folks used to talk about Nixon and his imperial presidency. He was a lightweight in comparison to what’s going on these days.Erosion #1: DOJ: NSA Could’ve Monitored Lawyers’ Calls

The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.

Responding to questions from Congress, the department also said that it sees no prohibition to using information collected under the NSA’s program in court.

Erosion #2: The Job of the FBI…

On March 14, [Common Cause President Chellie] Pingree participated on a panel on open government sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

A week after the panel, an FBI agent contacted the local League president, Susan Gilbert, to raise questions about Pingree’s published remarks at the panel.

For some reason, Roger Waters “The Tide Is Turning” keeps playing over and over in my head. I don’t know whether that gives me hope or makes me sad, though…

Senate committee approves bill expanding citizenship

Some good news out of Washington. Finally.  The Senate judiciary committee approved the Kennedy/McCain guest worker bill! Next step is, of course debate and a vote in front of the full Senate. But this is a huge step forward towards a moderate, sane immigration policy. The key parts of the bill are:

In general, the bill is designed to strengthen enforcement of U.S. borders, regulate the flow into the country of so-called guest workers and determine the legal future of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The bill would double the Border Patrol and authorizes a “virtual wall” of unmanned vehicles, cameras and sensors to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border.

It also allows more visas for nurses and agriculture workers, and shelters humanitarian organizations from prosecution if they provide non-emergency assistance to illegal residents.

The most controversial provision would permit illegal aliens currently in the country to apply for citizenship without first having to return home, a process that would take at least six years or more. They would have to pay a fine, learn English, study American civics, demonstrate they had paid their taxes and take their place behind other applicants for citizenship, according to aides to Kennedy.

Of course, there are those on the Senate floor who don’t like to take the sane, moderate path:

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., seeking re-election this fall in his border state, said the bill offered amnesty to illegal immigrants, and sought unsuccessfully to insert tougher provisions. He told fellow committee members that the economy would turn sour some day and Americans workers would want the jobs that now go to illegal immigrants. They will ask, “how could you have let this happen,” he added.

[..]

“Well over 60 percent of Americans in all the polls I see think it’s OK to have temporary workers, but you do not have to make them citizens,” said Kyl.

“We have a fundamental difference between the way you look at them and the way I look at them,” Kennedy observed later.

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, a potential presidential contender who worked with Kennedy on the issue, told reporters the street demonstrations had made an impact. “All those people who were demonstrating are not here illegally. They are the children and grandchildren” of those who may have been, he said.

The committee met as several thousand demonstrators rallied at the foot of the Capitol. Many were members of the clergy who donned handcuffs and sang “We Shall Overcome,” the unofficial anthem of the civil rights era.

After a weekend of enormous rallies — a crowd of as many as 500,000 demonstrators in Los Angeles — thousands of students walked out of class in California and Texas to protest proposals to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Teacher in trouble for exercising right to free speech

I have a mini-rant that I keep meaning to expand into a full-blown essay. One day, I am going to write it. But the basics are a list of differences between neoconservatives and liberals. And one of the main differences regards the right to free speech. Liberals not just tolerate a person’s right to free speech, they fight for it. Neoconservatives, on the other hand, thing that the right to free speech is spurious, and that not everyone deserves that right. In fact, they’ll go so far as to try to get good teachers fired for words that the teachers say.

Neoconservatives fear free speech. They fear open minds. They fear critical thinking. But what’s worse, they try to stifle these. They try to force silence on those who dare to voice an opinion they disagree with. And they want teachers, instructors and professors to only teach from one point-of-view: the neoconservative point of view.

Fortunately, there are rays of hope in the younger generation:

Students walked out of Overland High School Thursday in protest over the case of a teacher criticized for airing his political views during class.

Most of the students walked out in support of geography teacher Jay Bennish, whose comments against the Bush Administration’s war policy were audiotaped by a student. Bennish has been placed on paid leave by the Cherry Creek School District.

But what was so horrible, that the teacher had to be put on paid leave? Bennish’s harshest comments were, “‘I’m not saying Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they’re not. OK? But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use.'” Harsh? Sure. And it brings to mind Jon Stewart’s rant about over-using comparisons to Hitler. But is there anything in that rant to cause such an uproar?

Exposing kids to different viewpoints is a good thing! It gives them information they need to do some critical thinking, to figure out what they believe, as opposed to what they are told they should believe.

But then again, critical thinking isn’t part of the neoconservative agenda.

History repeating itself

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Looks like this goes for a nation, as well as for individuals. Yahoo! News details that much of the debate over President Bush’s illegal wiretapping goes back a couple of decades:

“We strongly believe it is unwise for the president to concede any lack of constitutional power to authorize electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes,” Robert Ingersoll, then-deputy secretary of state, wrote in a 1976 memorandum to President Ford about the proposed bill on electronic surveillance.

[…]

George H.W. Bush, then director of the
CIA, wanted to ensure “no unnecessary diminution of collection of important foreign intelligence” occurred under the proposal to require judges to approve terror wiretaps, according to a March 1976 memorandum he wrote to the Justice Department.

And it’s unsurprising that the Bush Sr. was involved in trying to keep this power for the president. Still doesn’t change the fact that the FISA rules and the 4th Amendment make it illegal for the president to order warrantless wiretaps.

Yeah, I’d vote for Al Gore in ’08

If Al Gore gave speeches with as much passion, intensity and intelligence as his speech on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I would’ve definitely voted for him in 2000. If Gore decides to run in 2008, he has my vote:

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: “The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.