October 2008 Archives

October 30, 2008

Sen. Ted Stevens Finds Appeals Suddenly Appealing

Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican Senator since 1968, was convicted by a jury of seven felony charges on Oct. 27, 2008. The felonies all involved corruption.  Stevens accepted huge gifts from oil corporations, but never bothered to report them.

stevens.jpg

Echoing the reactions of multitudes of convicted felons, Stevens immediately proclaimed his innocence and called the jury's verdict unjust. He blamed the verdict on prosecutorial misconduct and vowed that he would get it overturned on appeal. Blah, blah, blah -- so say all the powerful hypocrites like Stevens when they finally get caught.

What's particularly delicious about Stevens' professed faith in the appellate process is its newness. In fact, Stevens wasn't always such a big fan of appeals. Back in the mid-1990s, Stevens voted to limit the right of state court prisoners sentenced to death to appeal their convictions. Isn't it too bad that prisoners sentenced to death don't have the right to vote on Stevens' right to appeal?

Prior to his conviction, Stevens had gained notoriety for championing fiscal conservatism while earmarking huge sums of taxpayer money for pet projects that would benefit big Alaska donors. The most famous of these earmarks was the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere," a ridiculously expensive project that would have reduced the travel time between two sparsely populated villages in Alaska.

Stevens' conviction may indicate that he never quite got that earmark fiasco out of his mind. When he comes up for sentencing in January of 2009, Stevens may find that he has built a Bridge to Prison.

October 16, 2008

Proposition 6: A Terrible Idea at a Terrible Time

Proposition 6 is a California ballot initiative that deserves overwhelming rejection on November 4, 2008.  While a few of its provisions toughen penalties for some types of violent crime, the main effect of the initiative would be to redirect billions of dollars in increasingly scarce state resources to its backers.  

Here are six reasons to say no to Prop. 6 on election day in California:

  1. During a period when the state lacks money for basic services, Prop. 6 would require the state to spend a half billion dollars more than it already does for prison space. 
  2. The state would have to hire hundreds of additoinal parole agents at a cost of about $125,000 per agent per year. (That figure would be sure to rise.)
  3. Reeking of Hypocrisy Part 1: Henry Nicholas III, the initiative's primary financial supporter, is under indictment for a variety of federal crimes, including backdating stock options and providing drugs and prostitutes for clients.
  4. Reeking of Hypocrisy Part 2: The initiative's legislative sponsors routinely attack and vote against state spending measures, but manage to keep a straight face while pushing for a law that would commit billions of dollars of state money to their pet projects.   
  5. Prop. 6 is absurdly anti-democratic.  A virtually impossible-to-attain majority of at least 75% of the legislature would be required to alter any of its provisions.  The upshot is that legislators who regularly rail against "entitlements" are trying to cement them into state law.  I suppose it just depends on whose ox is entitled.
  6. The initiative names Appriss Inc., a single private maker of VINE, a victim notification device, and rewards counties that use VINE. (For information about the company, go to http://www.appriss.com/)  Would you be surprised to learn that Appriss is lobbying hard for the initiative's passage?    

While Proposition 6 would be a terrible idea at any time, it is a partilcularly terrible in 2008 as the state faces one financial crisis after another.  This initiative is a crime, and the best anti-crime message the voters can send is to reject it overwhelmingly.