Brian Keaney

Tag: beacon hill

The final ride

Here in the Hub of the Universe and surrounding environs, there is a debate ongoing about the merits of a bill that would allow doctors to write prescriptions to kill their patients.  Not all patients and all the time, but those who are suffering from a terminal illness and wish to call it quits.

I have a tough time getting worked up about it either way.  On the one hand, I say that if you want to shuffle off this mortal coil, who am I to say you should be forced to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?  On the other hand, I know that if I saw a distraught looking man standing on the precipice ready to jump, I’d do whatever it took to stop him.

 

Still, these are people who are likely in great amounts of pain, and are in all likelihood going to die soon anyway.  Additionally, it’s not as if Billy Costigan will be asking his doctor, “Why don’t you just give me a bottle of scotch and a handgun to blow my fucking head off?”  Presumably their deaths would be a little more dignified than that.

Still, I am ultimately pursuaded that the state should only be sanctioning death in the rarest of rare cases, such as during a just war, or when society has no other way to protect itself.  Even in other times when a death may be morally justified, it still should not receive the approbation of the state.  If every human life has an intrinsic value, and I believe it does, then society should not be condoning any taking of it.

I was also pleased to see in the press an argument made with a philosophical flair that is all too rare in the General Court.

“I think we as a society, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, using our intellect and our ingenuity and combined energies, we define ourselves not by allowing our citizens to die with dignity but by empowering our citizens to live with dignity while they’re dying,’’ said state Representative John Rogers, Democrat of Norwood. “And in that distinction, we define ourselves as a great, humane society.”

I do appreciate Rep. Rogers’ distinction, and hope that it carries weight with his colleagues.

On a related note, some time ago I noted in this space that

I’ve often said I don’t want to die an old man in my bed.  I’d much rather go out in a blaze of glory when a bolt on the world’s fastest roller coast snaps, or by falling off a 500 foot cliff after surmounting Everest.

Little did I know that I might be on to something.  In the roller coaster scenario, I had anticipated dying in a horrific accident that would likely leave tens dead, hundreds bereaved, and thousands scarred.  It need not, however, if the coaster itself is designed to kill you.

If ever built, the Euthanasia Coaster would consist of a 12-car train capable of holding a total of 24 passengers. Riders would climb 1670 feet before dropping down an equal distance on the other side, which would result in the train traveling at 220 mph. The drop leads to the first of seven clothoid inversions which get smaller and smaller before a sharp turn returns the train to the loading platform.

For a total of 60 seconds, passengers would experience 10 g forces, enough to incite cerebral hypoxia, or lack of oxygen supply to the brain. The first two loops are designed to be lethal, while the additional five are added for good measure.

Those on board would feel no pain, but rather experience gray out, tunnel vision, and eventually black out as they lose consciousness thanks to the speed in which they enter the coaster’s several inversions.

Fortunately, the coaster is “[m]ore of a tongue-in-cheek social statement than a serious project.”  I can only imagine the battles on Beacon Hill over permitting for that thing, but man, what a way to go.

Governor Patrick, tear down these walls

As the MNPA reported today, “Something extraordinary happened today on the editorial pages of Massachusetts daily newspapers. More than 20 of the state’s newspapers agreed to jointly run an editorial endorsing reforms to the public records and open meetings laws that would help bring about increased government transparency.”   I’m happy to lend this space as well for the cause as well.

 

The walls Beacon Hill has erected between itself and those it governs have taken on two dramatically different faces.

Outside, they show decades’ of  wear at the hands of those fighting for  better access to their government. Inside, they’re increasingly pocked with a taint that thrives in the absence of light.

That taint, most recently seen in a disturbing chain of high-profile corruption cases, suggests any benefits such barriers provide to the efficiency of lawmaking are grievously undermined by the efficiencies they also provide to those more interested in lawbreaking.

The felony convictions of three successive House speakers — and a Probation Department scandal that threatens to reach into every corner of public service — clearly indicate state transparency laws are in dire need of improvement.

Central to that effort is eliminating exemptions that free the governor’s office, Legislature and judiciary from having to live by the meeting and records laws that apply to every other public office in this state.  Just as important is making it easier and more affordable for people to take advantage of the access already protected by a law that predates e-mail and the Internet.

It’s an area where minor advances have been made but substantive reform has been routinely killed or ignored.

Given recent scandals and polls showing a deep and growing distrust in government, we hope this year is different.

That notion will soon be tested on several fronts as lawmakers consider a number of initiatives.

One bill seeks to reduce the cost of obtaining records, requiring state agencies to make commonly sought public documents available electronically. It would also cut administrative costs and processing time associated with such records requests.

Another would strengthen the enforcement and investigatory powers of the Supervisor of Public Records.

A third would assess penalties against lawmakers who purposely skirt access laws and would cover the legal fees of those who successfully challenge them. And several seek to breach that battered and stained wall around Beacon Hill, subjecting the Legislature to the state’s Open Meeting Law.

Critics of the measures have focused on the financial and manpower burdens they impose on records keepers. Yet this push for more easily accessible records, already successfully implemented in other states,  holds the promise of reducing those burdens.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, following the June conviction of his predecessor, Salvatore DiMasi, vowed to regain voters’ faith in state government.

“Today’s news delivers a powerful blow to the public’s trust in government,” he wrote then. “One of the things that I find most disturbing – and the thing I am most committed to changing – is the public’s view of politicians and public sector employees.”

Fewer walls — legal, financial and technological — would go a long way toward that goal.