May 23, 2007

Scientific Policy

Posted in policy, science at 5:15 pm by saracallow

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.

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May 3, 2007

I like it… but maybe I’m dreaming…

Posted in Campaign, Gore, Iraq, U.S. Attorneys at 1:30 pm by saracallow

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.