Tom Lowenstein

Recent Articles

121 Days Old

If you'd asked Nick Yarris how old he was, on May 17, 2004 -- his 43rd birthday -- he'd have told you, "121 days." For the rest of his life, Yarris will have his regular birthday and the day he was born again: January 16, 2004, the day he walked out of the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Greene a free man after 22 years on death row. That birth had a long labor of its own, starting probably at age 7, when Yarris was sexually assaulted by a neighborhood predator. By 18 he was a tough high-school dropout, using drugs to protect himself from, as he puts it, his core having been stripped away from him. He dealt drugs, robbed people. In 1981, at age 20, Yarris got busted in a stolen car, wrestled with the officer who tried to arrest him, and ended up in jail, where, desperate to get out from under the charges and going through cold-turkey withdrawal from methamphetamine addiction, he told police that he knew who had killed Linda Mae Craig, a Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, woman who...

Collateral Damage

Carlos Kelly was six years old when, in December of 1991, his mother, Caridad, was arrested by federal agents in Florida for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. "I remember it was, like, me and my stepbrothers and sisters, we was all gathered in the playroom," says Carlos, now 16. "I told my mom that the Nintendo was broke--this is what I remember the most--I asked my mom if she could get us a new one. She went out to get the new Nintendo, and she never came back." Caridad and her husband ran a small travel agency and money wiring business in Tampa not far from their home. She stopped by the office on her way to the store. "I was at work," she recalls. "It was right before, the week before Christmas. I wanted to go to Toys R Us, I remember; I wanted to get Carlos a Nintendo. I wanted to close up my business. My accountant and my husband were sitting there getting the daily deposit ready. I saw all these people coming in from every door--all these...

Why Did He Do It?

After years of following the Republican Party as it side-stepped rightward like a drunk at a Bob Barr confederate-pride cookout, and months of watching George W.'s slight grin of "bipartisanship" pasted over his very partisan agenda, a Republican has finally had the courage to stand up and admit that the party he joined no longer exists. Exhausted by six months of Republican howlers -- those distortions, prevarications, hypocrisies, and Bushisms so blatant that even mildly informed observers burst into howls of laughter when they read them -- Jim Jeffords, Senator from Vermont, is expected to announce that he will leave the Republicans to become an Independent. The question now is, which howler did it? Here are my nominations, in something like chronological order: 1) "Compassionate Conservatism." 2) The notion that George W. Bush was going to return honor and integrity to the White House. An intellectual void surrounded by the people who brought you Iran-Contra is hardly a recipe for...

Filibuster!

Before John Ashcroft's confirmation hearings even started, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott announced that all 50 Republican senators would vote to confirm Ashcroft as attorney general. When Democratic Senators Zell Miller of Georgia and Robert Byrd of West Virginia announced recently that they would vote for him, they reconfirmed that Ashcroft would be approved. That is, unless there's a filibuster. And filibuster is just what Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy is hinting he may do. A filibuster on a cabinet confirmation would be apparently unprecedented -- and the Senate's Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle announced this weekend that he would not support such a move. But extreme nominees call for extreme means. Welcome to week one of Ralph Nader's plan to energize the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. (Remember his pronouncements that it would be better for progressive causes if George W. Bush won?) Well, Dubya is in the White House and former...

Fight Ashcroft?

Yesterday, as leading party strategists gathered in a Washington, D.C. hotel conference room to apportion blame for Gore's victory, Senator Tom Daschle assured President Bush that Democrats would not filibuster John Ashcroft's confirmation for attorney general, thereby all but guaranteeing that Ashcroft would be approved. The promise came just one day after ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, asked to postpone the Ashcroft vote for a week -- a move that many interpreted as a signal that Democrats were gearing up for a fight. And it came the same day that moderate Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein -- a member of the Judiciary Committee -- announced she would vote against Ashcroft. Al Gore may have run for president on the theme of "pragmatic idealism." But his fellow Democrats don't practice it, and it's killing them. The Ashcroft nomination is a clear example of that fact. If even 41 if the 50 Democratic senators would agree to...

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