May 23, 2007
I have spent the last semester in school doing an independent study focused on policymaking in highly technical and scientific areas. It has been a great learning experience. I wrote the following paper for the culminating project – It basically just sumarizes my learnings. If you’re interested in learning more about this type of policy making…. read on… if not, don’t worry… it’s a bit long for a blog!
As a citizen, we need only listen to the latest sound bite in the news regarding stem cell research, or overhear a bit of the global warming debate to understand the complexity and importance of science in policy making. Highly scientific and technical issues comprise a large share of the political debate in our country today. What regulations are necessary in genetically modified foods? How do we achieve a balance between economic interests and clean air or water? Is it possible to navigate the public storms surrounding regulation of the internet, carbon dioxide, or embryonic stems cells and arrive at some policy position which most of us can respect, if not necessarily agree with? There are many difficulties inherent to policy making in highly scientific and technical areas. Several academics have discussed these difficulties, and some have even offered suggestions for improving the policy-making process. This paper hopes to give a brief summary and explanation of some of the challenges inherent to policy making in highly technical and scientific areas and to review the proposed suggestions for improving the process. In addition, it aims to pinpoint some key learnings focused on incorporating and balancing scientific truth with the demands of democracy.
May 3, 2007
Admittedly, I look to news which supports what I want to hear… especially in this case. And maybe it’s grasping at straws, but I’m holding on until it’s absolutely clear that it won’t come to be… So we’ll see. Barack, you’ll have to wait a little longer for my check…
On Attorney Firings
I’m the first person to admit to supporting the idea that we should “plant a Bush in Texas” – or whatever the latest bumper sticker says. I’m also sure that the firings of the U.S. Attorneys were politically motivated. What I’m not sure about is whether I agree that is the problem here.
U.S. Attorneys are part of the bureaucracy, housed in the executive branch. Ultimately, they are responsible to the White House. There has been an ongoing debate regarding the administrative component of our government and its professionalism vs political status almost since it has been created. Do we want a professional bureaucracy, one that borders on technocracy – or is it meant to be a political institution? I actually think I would argue for the later – and that leaves me with the question of whether these firings were problematic or not.
According to the Constitution, the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The modern bureaucracy came into being around the time of the New Deal, in part to help deal with the magnitude of this task. It is my opinion that if we have a completely professional bureaucracy, then the election of a President doesn’t make a very big impact. The bureaucracy should reflect the views of the President. It is his constitutional power to see that laws are faithfully executed, and to determine what deserves highest priority. We elected the President. Even if we didn’t personally cast our vote for him (and not getting into the correctness of the Bush v. Gore decision) – he is the President of the U.S. The rights and duties accorded him under the constitution are his. And the politicization of the bureaucracy should go along with that. I certainly want the implementation and faithful execution of the law to change and reflect the politics of our next elected leader (I guess that somewhat assumes a party change in leadership of course!). Complete professionalism would largely prevent that. Just because the choice of president in the election and the actions of the administration don’t reflect my politics doesn’t make it constitutionally wrong.
That being said, I don’t understand why they don’t just own up to the truth. This was a calculated political move. Executed poorly. The attorneys received no warning, and that clearly is not appropriate. Gonzales appears to be lying. And it all just seems like another perfect example of the willingness of the administration to hide and distort the truth. That, in my opinion, should be the bigger story here. The implications of the Bush presidency on the transparency of the executive branch towards the public may outlive and prove even more troubling than the legacy of Iraq War. Hard to imagine, but possible. At least, that’s my opinion. Now I just need to figure out how to put it on a bumper sticker.
March 31, 2007
Dear Vice Pesident Gore,
I have a bit of a problem, and I really believe that you can help. I’m an avid follower of politics and consumer of the news. But I just can’t get excited about the race for 2008. In fact, I am pretty sure that come the primaries, I still won’t feel enthusiastic about my vote. Anyone who knows me well can tell you, this would not be right. I am a passionate person who cares deeply about our world. I know the issues, read about the candidates, detest the current situation, and want to see things changed. I want to feel strongly about this race, but I don’t. I will go to the poles and vote, to be sure – but I would like to care so much that I spend time convincing my fellow citizens to agree with my choice. I want to help change the world, but I need your help.
The truth is, you have a moral obligation to enter this race, and until you do, I will have a hard time getting strongly behind any existing candidate. Yes, I said moral obligation. I know that is a pretty strong statement, laden with values… and I’m not someone who wants to impose my value system on others. But it’s not really my value system, it’s yours… so it seems reasonable to hold you to it. I watched your movie, and you told us that global warming is a moral issue. You said we had an ethical obligation to act. Well, you have an obligation here as well.
You know what else? You talked about your child, his accident, and your renewed perspective on life. Well guess what? I have children too. I don’t want to leave them with a world on the brink of disaster – facing storms, floods, drought, famine, disease that we have never seen before. This is the issue facing the world today – and we have you to thank for helping bring it to the forefront of America’s conscience.
You have done so much for the cause, and maybe we have 2000 to thank for that. But think how different things could have been if you did all this from the White House? Yes, I know, you couldn’t have done exactly this from the White House…. But maybe you could have done more. And let’s not even get into the war in Iraq, and the War of Terror… just think about what you could have changed as far as environmental policy… (At least you’d have been there to help get Live Earth on the mall… climate change is still today being called a partisan issue? That might be the most depressing thing I’ve heard.)
The reality is, Congress only acts when the majority of congressional districts agree on something. This doesn’t happen often, and for that I believe we should actually be thankful… Madison’s plan was well-designed. But when big change is necessary, there must be a public advocate… a change agent. Someone to convince us all. You have spent the last 7 years invigorating the citizenship, and the world, warming them to the “warmth” – and yet, every time you spoke publicly, was there a news corp around? Were your words published nationwide, tv cameras trained on your every move? What if you really had the bully pulpit, what could you do for this issue? More. You could do more. There is no way around it. You have been amazingly effective outside of office… but you could do more as President. If this is truly the moral obligation you have been convincing us of… then it is time for you to step up. Accept your place. You created it.
Win or lose, even a campaign focused on this issue would get more coverage. Win, and you have the power… Lose, and you’re still right where you stand today.
You owe it to us… you convinced us of it… please remember all our children, and take the action necessary to save our planet.
Yes…. I mailed it. If you agree… write him yourself. Help make a change.
Honourable Al Gore2100 West End Avenue Suite 620
March 12, 2007
Today, Vice-President Cheney asserted that members of Congress who are anti-war are “undermining” U.S. troops in Iraq. I struggle with this concept. Does saying “I support our troops” mean that you have to give up the right to question our leadership? Once we begin a war, would we be better off converting to a dictatorship until hostilities end? Is it impossible to be truly supportive of our troops and anti-war at the same time?
No, no and no…. that is my answer. Members of the military have contracted with our government to follow its direction in times of war. I appreciate their commitment and honor their sacrafice However, I think they are dependent on the citizens of the United States – and need our support in the exercise of democratic society. How many of them would have readily joined the military if the U.S. was a dictatorship? I would have to guess that it is far fewer in number than currently serve. There is a security in knowing that your leadership answers to the people whom you call friend, brother, and neighbor… the citizens of the United States. We have a duty to our soldiers to remain informed and question the leadership who commits their lives to peril. To do any less would be to condemn them to the war of a dictator. This is a democracy, it is a democracy they committed to serve because they ostensibly believe in the fundamental principals underlying the government. Freedom of speech and the freedom to question are inherent rights to our citizenship and rights which our soldiers depend on us to exercise.
Does this make the conduct of war more difficult? Of course it does. President Bush must answer to the public in his conduct of the war… Our enemies can factor in public opinion in their strategies. It is a fact of democracy that the public has a say. However, to sacrafice this basic tenet of our government would be to destroy everything our troops are fighting to protect. I hardly think they want to come home to a United States so fundamentally different from the one they signed their allegiance to.
March 7, 2007
I don’t know… I couldn’t help being bothered by some of the campaign coverage this week. Both Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were in Selma, in recognition of the “attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and a subsequent march to Montgomery led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., that prompted Congress to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act.” (Faussett and Jarvie, Los Angeles Times, March 5th, 2007)
What gets to me a little is the desire by both candidates to appear “blackest.” Hillary claims allegiance to African Americans because their movement led to greater rights for women. She spoke and attended church services and could be seen “pouring herself into the traditional Baptist service with gusto — nodding her head, hollering “Amen,” slapping her hand on her thigh and swaying from side to side” (LA Times).
Obama, for his part, spoke of the similarities between his father’s life as a “houseboy”in Kenya and the struggle of African Americans in the U.S. He related his father’s knowledge regarding the achievements of civil rights as a large reason for coming to the U.S. Obama’s “delivery, which started out lawyerly and dry in the morning, had by the afternoon flexed to fit the more traditional cadences of a black preacher” (LA Times).
I guess that both candidates may have a reasonable message to deliver. They probably both have a greater appreciation of minority struggle and life in the U.S. than the average politician. But it seems condescending to me that they both have to pretend to be as much the “same” as their audience as possible. Wouldn’t it be much more genuine and honest if they could stand up in the churches and say, “I’m not a part of the same community and experiences as you, but I am your ally. I appreciate your struggle because of experiences in my life, and I am committed to your cause.” It just seems dishonest to change your tone of voice, inflection, or worship style to court voters… and it seems disrespectful of the audience’s ability to appreciate that your differences do not exclude you from being an advocate.
Basically ALL candidates, elected officials, etc take part in this kind of act. I don’t look down specifically on Clinton or Obama for their actions. It is just the reality of politics. But aren’t we asking a bit much of our president… if he or she has to be “just like us”? It’s our fault really that they behave this way, because this is what we (the public) seem to want when we vote. For my part, I want someone better than myself… They don’t have to be like me, they have to respect me, be well versed in areas of importance to me, and committed to much the same vision for the country. I don’t need to hear about how well they relate to mothers in their thirties, or discuss diaper rash with them. They don’t have to use the word “like” when they visit the Valley. Just some honest discussion from a real person would be fine with me….
March 1, 2007
The Los Angeles Times today (3/1/07) had a front page article titled “Going behind bars for laborers.” The article summarizes the results of passage by the Colorado Legislature of what has been promoted as “the nations toughest laws against illegal immigration.” According to the Times, since the legislation was passed last summer, “Colorado has struggled with a labor shortage as migrants fled the state.” The result has been the spoilage of crops and the introduction of a new program to use “low-security risk” prisoners.
Illegal immigration is a tough issue. Philosophically, it pains me that the U.S. is separate from Mexico (and any other nation for that matter) at all. Why should the location of your birth play the determining role in your standard of living? How can we morally turn away immigrants from this country who desire to share in our standard of living? How can we say that because we were born in the United States, we deserve the economic and individual rights privileges – but you who desire to come in, do not. Especially considering we are a nation built on immigration.
Yet an open border is clearly not a pragmatic solution. Our national systems could collapse under the weight of the influx and any advantages of living in the U.S. may be so diluted as to make little difference in the immigrant’s lives and serve to reduce quality of life here.
The other end of the spectrum, as exemplified by Colorado’s recent legislation is not much of a solution either. The exodus of migrant labor left farmers without labor. It is not as if there are actual legal workers waiting in the wings for the jobs to open. Colorado has proposed a solution, but farmers are unenthusiastic about employing prisoners (wonder why?) and in addition to security issues, highlight the lack of training in the prison population regarding crop handling and the increased financial costs of working through the government. There is an actual need for the illegal worker in our country – to deny this will hurt the business community.
So we come to some place in the middle…. the guest worker program, the path to legal immigration…. for once, I find myself on a not too distant page from our current Administration. The guest worker program seems to recognize the need for this labor force. However, Steven Greenhouse, of the International Herald Tribune, in his article on February 27, 2007, ”Despite push to expand guest worker program in the U.S., abuses abound” – demonstrates that the guest worker program is not perfect either. Employers have taken advantage of the fact that workers cannot look for other positions, and the perception exists that you must go along or be sent home. How to protect workers in such a program is clearly problematic.
Furthermore, what do you pay workers in a guest worker program? When not dealing under the table with illegal labor, employers are subject to the laws of the country. A minimum wage at least would apply, and there have been suggestions that the “prevailing wage” should be incorporated into legislation. What no one seems to be discussing (but which I find curiously absent) is what this will mean for costs of production. Illegal immigrants are probably rarely paid the “prevailing” wage… and sometimes not the minimum. What will requiring this standard do to the costs of production? Are their industries who will see the legalized standing of guest workers price them out of the market and then will move abroad and hire inexpensive labor? Clearly, this would benefit no one – though it may simply be the reality of globalization. Though unlikely to become an unsustainable industry thanks to all the supports provided by Congress, will farming cost taxpayers incrementally more – whether in hidden tax increases or small price jumps at the grocery store?
Is it moral to allow illegal immigration and the reduced wages for illegal immigrants which now comprise a decent portion of our system to continue? Are those among us who support a living wage, path to citizenship, and the guest worker program failing to see the entire economic picture of a global community? What are the answers?
All I know is that Colorado’s solution seems disrespectful – both to the economic needs of farmers and to the immigrants who work their fields. And I am morally uncomfortable with having second class “citizens” living among us, with no rights, lower pay and few benefits. But economically speaking – I just can’t figure it out… and find my thoughts are running in circles.
Maybe the solution is to accept the global nature of commerce, implement the guest worker program, stop protecting the farming industry, pay a living wage, allow business to seek labor where it is least expensive, watch some prices fall (and maybe others rise) - and deal with what may be the inevitable need of the United States to accept it’s changing economic situation in the world… Though getting many to sign on to that unknown seems difficult, if not impossible.
February 23, 2007
The title of this blog, and of this posting, is taken from Maya Angelou’s poem, On the Pulse of Morning. It is probably one of my favorite poems of all time and was delivered January 19, 1993 at the Inaguration of President Clinton. View it in it’s entirety at http://gos.sbc.edu/a/angelou.html.
As most people who know me well can attest to…. I am “into” politics. Currently working on my Masters in political science, I find myself quite interested in current issues and the (yes – far in the future) upcoming presidential race.
I want to give “birth again to the dream” of an impassioned leader, a globally respected America, and a proud citizenry. This blog will serve as my personal publication of thoughts on politics, and hopefully some insightful discussion from readers. Please reply, comment on, and air your opinions. In the coming days, I hope to post my thoughts on candidates for president and important issues facing our country.