In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Some Closure

So, I'm glad I did this blog. It was a real lesson in writing, politics, policy, and so forth. I miss the writing side of it--though I'm not sure I'd jump back into such an intense election cycle any sooner than necessary.

I hope this post can bring a measure of closure to this effort of mine (I've definitely had pieces of it in mind for a while, and will be happy to have finally put it all to, ah, paper, so to speak). As long as Google's blog platform doesn't kick me off, I'll hope the blog will provide me, and perhaps others over time, with a sense of time and place surrounding this point in history--along with specific reminders of the serious issues that were at hand: tragic health care disparities, gaping income differences, over-dependence on oil, and so on (issues that we'll hopefully only know as history at some point).

As I bring this to a close though, I want to do so by voicing a concern that comes to mind in seeing and participating in the phenomenon Obama brought about (a phenomenon other great leaders also encourage at times). I'll voice the concern in the form of a question: Will the movement Obama built lead us to place too much dependence on him, a single leader, shirking our own, individual responsibility to bring about change?

Over the years, as many who know me can attest, I've been progressively drawn to everything "community." This has led me at once to various community involvement and a related discontent with the state of community in America. In turn, I've developed a growing interest in mechanisms for building more substantive community (incidentally, I've pursued these interests down a variety of paths, recently discovering the area of community psychology, which I intend to go on and study). I bring these interests of mine up though, because they include a similar discontent with the state of civic engagement in America (thus tying into my above concern about placing too much emphasis on a single leader).

There has been a severe decline in civic engagement over the last several decades. One of the most prominent individuals documenting this decline has been social scientist Robert Putnam, author of a number of research-intensive studies on the subject, his 2000 publication Bowling Alone being the best known of the bunch. In it, Putnam methodically lays out evidence of decline in most forms of political participation (along with a litany of other areas of waning community involvement). This plunge in engagement is not lost on our now President; as I've noted in the past, Mr. Obama was part of the Saguaro Seminar, a group of 33 civic leaders who Putnam himself gathered together for a series of sessions in the late 90s, with the goal of discussing this very issue: declining citizen engagement in America.

What does that mean for our present situation then, with a President in office who is apparently aware of this drop in the people's involvement in politics? Only good things? I hope. Certainly it holds great potential, as Putnam and others have pointed out at various times throughout the past election cycle (here, for example). On the other hand, many have opined over whether the impassioned civic activism of Obama's supporters will sputter and die now that he's in office--indeed, Obama himself has rightly zeroed in on the possibility, leading to his Administration's many efforts to avoid that type of fall off. Most visibly, of course, this is manifest in the repurposing of the Obama campaign into Organizing for America (OFA). Other Administration efforts include a consistent push for town hall-type engagement, the utilization of online participation mechanisms like "Open for Questions" and Facebook, and the formation of the White House "Office for Public Engagement" (President Obama referred to the latter as an office meant to "engage as many Americans as possible in the difficult work of changing this country, through meetings and conversations with groups and individuals held in Washington and across the country").

As I said, these efforts are ripe with possibility, for sure. Paradoxically, however, one of the main obstacles to an engaged populace seems to be Obama himself. And, to restate, therein lies my concern: Will the majority role in our country be that of actor, or passive recipient? Do we determine our future, or do we receive it from on high (read: Obama, courtesy of the sometimes messianic lens through which we view him)? I've wondered about this on and off over the last two years or so, as our country has been swept by Obamania (some as participants, some as onlookers, myself as much an Obamamaniac as the next guy).

One evening, back in March of this year, I felt my concerns somewhat vindicated as I watched a commemorative interview with historian and author, John Hope Franklin; the interview, recorded in mid-2006 prior to Obama's announced run for president, was being re-aired on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (just a few days after Franklin's passing). The excerpt below is clear enough, in large part, but a brief preface: Franklin had a view that may sound controversial at first, in terms of his perspective on another prominent African American, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Franklin observed that leadership is needed, but couched that in a broader warning:

"[W]hen you place all of your stock on a particular person or even a group of people, then, I think, you are failing to see what the ordinary person's role is in the transformation of society and the changes that can take place. If we depend on a person, whether it's Martin Luther King or someone else, to lead us out of the wilderness, so to speak, our dependence is going to betray us because somewhere along the line we might lose that leader, as we did in 1968 with the assassination of Martin Luther King."
The context for that excerpt follows:
GWEN IFILL [with the NewsHour]: I want to ask you about something else which you mentioned in your book, which I found just got my attention. You were talking about Martin Luther King, who for so many Americans personifies what the civil rights movement was, beginning, middle and end. But you wrote that you thought that there was an unfortunate cult of personality that was built up around Dr. King.


GWEN IFILL: Tell me about that.

JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN: Well, that view or that practice is a part of American confusion about what brings about change. We do need leadership; I'm not questioning that. But when you place all of your stock on a particular person or even a group of people, then, I think, you are failing to see what the ordinary person's role is in the transformation of society and the changes that can take place. If we depend on a person, whether it's Martin Luther King or someone else, to lead us out of the wilderness, so to speak, our dependence is going to betray us because somewhere along the line we might lose that leader, as we did in 1968 with the assassination of Martin Luther King. Where would we be then? Where are we now without him? We were stumbling around, fumbling around in the wilderness. No, I think that we must not place so much emphasis on a person or a leader and think about the responsibility of all of us. And if we need to keep our counsel and define what our role is, that's all right, but we have a role. Everyone has a role in improving our society and transforming it. And if we depend on one person or even a small number of people, then I think we're gambling on an eventuality that might be unfortunate.
As a quick aside, Franklin did have the chance to witness and comment on the potential and gradual rise of Obama; see this video for a brief interview on the subject.

As a quick follow-up on the above though, I basically think the balance between leadership and individual responsibility is crucial, and that there are, in my view, mechanisms worth exploring to make that balance more realistic for everyday citizens; I also feel these mechanisms will have to come from sources outside of any one party, to a significant degree (though the Administration's efforts seem utterly important, with many exciting ideas surely still to come). These perspectives of mine definitely play into my draw towards community psychology that I mentioned above, as I believe there is some monumental work to be done in this area of civic engagement (among other interests that draw me to the field).

As a sidenote, in terms of these issues in general, they're ones that I was thinking about in a radio piece I was able to do in January; it might give anyone reading a rounder sense of my views on all this, if interested. With all that said, I feel content retiring this somewhat brief run of mine in the blogosphere--hopeful that engagement will end up being more common than apathy, while at the same time intent on finding my own role in that struggle.

Photo credit (love that shot).

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Support of a Public Option for Health Care

So I have not had time at all to add to this blog recently, and actually started a final post a while ago that I need to finish; but, in the mean time, I had to put something out here about a public option for health care, particularly because health care reform is one of the issues that has meant the most to me. I actually just wanted to call on anyone who feels the same way to sign this online petition about it, via a site put together by Senators Durbin, Leahy and Schumer; additionally, I wanted to encourage anyone out there to write your member of Congress (particularly your Senators), urging them to support a public option. The idea is not to nationalize health care, but rather to force competition into our health care system and to allow Americans to decide what they think will be best.

It's incredibly easy to contact your member of Congress: just write a brief note saying what you are asking them to do and why, and ask them for a response. You can just send it via email through this website: (or, if you can, fax it in through the fax numbers listed on that same site--many say that faxing your comments in is the best option, as snail mail takes a longer time to get through security checks and they get inundated with email; that said, I have gotten responses back to emails I've sent in, and that's how I sent in my comments below). Here is one of the quick notes I put together and sent in to Senator Jim Webb, one of our Senators from Virginia (I just slightly altered it for our other Senator, Mark Warner, and for my member of the House, Congressman Jim Moran):

Dear Sen. Webb,

I think it's crucial that a public health care option is pushed through as a part of the health care reform efforts that are being negotiated. I think we need nothing less than a public option if we're going to have real competition where Americans can choose the health care they think is best. I have appreciated your integrity thus far in the Senate and would appreciate hearing back from you on this; specifically, I would ask that you tell me why you will or will not support a public option, as I feel that is the intellectually honest thing required from any member of Congress that stands for or against this particular part of health care reform.


Brendan O'Connor
Update: A quick addendum that came to mind here after someone made a comment to me about how there are tons of plans to choose from already. My response was that the multitude of plans doesn't include a public option. And, when there's a huge philosophical divide in our country on how health care should be provided, it seems only fair to put both public and private plans to the test by letting people freely choose one or the other--they can't do that right now.

Update 2:
After about a week and a half I heard back via email from both Rep. Moran and Sen. Warner's offices. Moran appeared to support a public option, and I'm almost positive he does, but oddly didn't state it very clearly in his response; he just described what Obama was calling for in terms of health care, and what a House draft included (a public option, among other things). Warner stated the following at one point in the response I received: "Much of the current controversy surrounding reform efforts has been focused on whether the bill should include a public health insurance option. As evidence that there is room to compromise, several alternatives are being discussed ranging from non-profit regional co-operatives to a delayed public option. I will keep your views in mind as we consider these and other proposals." According to OpenLeft, Warner is a key target for passage of the public option in the Senate. I didn't receive a response yet from Sen. Webb's office, but interestingly he has already come out in support of a public option (more here)--I say "interestingly" because Webb was a Republican before running as a Democrat for the Senate in '06, so he's not the likeliest supporter of a public option; but, he definitely strikes me as an independent thinker, as his support of a public option and his willingness to make a party switch like that suggest.

Update 3:
I did end up receiving a reply from Sen. Webb's office, though it did not directly mention the public option (even though he signed onto the above). He did include an interesting note on the overall approach to reform, noting his belief that the President "should have begun the process with a clear proposal that could have been the starting point for the work of the five separate congressional committees charged with responsibility for this issue. Without such a specific format, Congress has had difficulty crafting a bill of such challenging scope and complexity. I am hopeful that the President will remedy this problem in the coming weeks." This is indeed where the President has trended since then (though it seems like it has been a tough road to hoe, given the fact that President Clinton and Hillary Clinton are thought to have been too prescriptive for Congress in their approach to the issue). On another note, the concept of a "trigger" is an interesting one, whereby a public option would go into place if a predetermined level of health care savings are not realized after a set number of years (while this doesn't seem optimal in my view, it may just be realistic, given the politics).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Progress by Union

Can folks do more when gathered together than they can separately? Might that be more than a gimmicky-sounding idea of "unity" and more a calculation of possibility?

Well, that is the idea I'm left with after hearing our President's speech honoring the attitude and aims of Abraham Lincoln. May the speech be a hearty weekend dose of what's possible in our country, for anyone interested--and one that I would only preface with a quote of Lincoln's that Obama notes in the speech:

"The legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done but which they cannot, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, by themselves."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Belatedly, GREAT Speech

In what is likely one of my last posts here, I just want to say what a solid speech now-President Barack Obama made on Inauguration Day. The bar was obviously high, but I think he did a fine job meeting it by simply talking about reality in clear terms. The video and text of the speech is at the bottom of this post for any that didn't see it, but a few favorite lines that stuck out to me are below (with my two absolute favorites in bold, where Obama's voice seemed to quiet, while at the same time rising a note or two, emphasizing the gravity of the points he's making):

  • " Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights. Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met."
  • "In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."
  • "Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end."
  • " For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy" (emphasis mine).
  • "Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task."

I especially appreciated his emphasis of values because it confirms my view of Obama as an ethicist, as I sought to emphasize with the little series I did, "The Value, and Values of Barack." Here's the video of the rocking speech below though, and the full text of the remarks is available on the new White House website here (by the way, check out this amazing picture of the Inauguration, you can zoom in on just about everybody within a half-mile radius or so, including all the big wigs sitting up by Obama).

Photo credit: The Boston Globe and the amazing set of shots they have from the Inauguration, both as it happened in DC and as it was watched and celebrated around the world.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

On Empathy and Ayn Rand

First of all, I owe the launch of today's thought process to Ms. Jone Johnson Lewis of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, and her thought-provoking blog post, "Empathy in the White House." The concept of empathy as a worthy and even central consideration in our world is one I've seen highlighted by President Obama, as noted in past posts of mine, such as this one. But I laud an effort Jone highlighted by an individual to collect a documentary's worth of examples of Obama discussing empathy, titled "Barack Obama and a New Spirit of Empathy" (though it's still only a rough cut, it's viewable here).

After viewing some of the above clips of Barack talking about empathy this morning, I was thrown into reflective mode as I ate my breakfast and started into the day. The clips add up to over an hour, so I didn't get much past 20 minutes or so (though I hope to look at more of it eventually). One particular section that left me thinking was of Obama speaking at a Northwestern University commencement in June of 2006; the whole speech begins at around 9 minutes and 25 seconds into the video, though the particular section I'll quote below starts right around 10:45:

"So there will be those who will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they're all lazy and weak in spirit; that the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can't learn and won't learn, and so we should give up on them entirely; that the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes on the other side of the globe, are somebody else's problem to care for.

I hope you don't listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden and not contract the ambit of your concern. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation; not just because you have a debt to pay for those who helped to get you where you are, although I do think you have the debt; but rather because you have an obligation to yourself.

Because, what I've found in my life is that my individual salvation depends on our collective salvation. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you'll realize your true potential, that you'll become full grown."

I'm not sure what I think about this, quite honestly. I think I may disagree in part--though it may just be that he used the word "rather" instead of "also," meaning essentially the same thing. But this leads me to Ayn Rand. I've been surprised at how much Rand, author of books such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, has come up in various conversations and settings recently. I must admit right off, I haven't read any of her books, and so I come to this without a fully informed view. However, I think that is fine in this case, because I am not looking to speak in depth about her views, but rather just to raise a question in relation to what appears to be her perspective--both as I've heard others speak of it, and as I've read in brief in summaries such as this one on the site of the Ayn Rand Institute (a non-profit aimed at promoting Ayn Rand and her views).

I find that some of Obama's comments above hint at Rand in a way I'm not entirely comfortable with--though I post this with the hope that it might lead to some conversations with others that might help inform, and possibly change my view about Rand and/or Obama's comments (I'm feeling pretty committed right now, though that could undoubtedly change if I'm convinced that my view is imbalanced). I won't go on for long here, but will simply post a short summary from Rand's own words of her philosophy, known as "objectivism," and briefly comment on it in relation to the excerpt from Obama's speech that I pasted above. As Rand herself wrote (with the Rand Institute's links included and the primary section I will comment on in bold):

"My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:
  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church."
To repeat again the section I marked in bold above, "The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life." I find this imbalanced, and that is my primary objection to the above. Now Rand does seek to provide some balance in the previous sentence, noting that we should not sacrifice others to ourself, but I'm not sure that is sufficient. I believe, as a much-admired social scientist of mine, Robert Putnam, noted here, that "We need to connect with one another. We've got to move a little more in the direction of community in the balance between community and the individual."

And that's wherein the issue lies for me. I think we'll always have to aim for balance, making that the end game--as opposed to making a philosophy of, and forgive me if I offend anyone, pursuing one's "own happiness [as] the highest moral purpose of his life." Yet I hesitate here, and note that Rand may have been speaking at a time when individuals were sacrificing themselves too much for the sake of others; at a time such as that, emphasizing individualism may have been necessary--that comes to mind because I realize that now I think emphasizing community, as Putnam noted above, seems critically important.

There is much more to write and think about in regard to this, so forgive me if this ends up being too cursory of a post. But I will, for the moment, end by noting how all this relates to Obama's thoughts from that above speech. Again, he said that we needed to expand "the ambit of our concern" to include the larger good, not only because we have an obligation to others ("you do" he said),

"[B]ut rather because you have an obligation to yourself. Because, what I've found in my life is that my individual salvation depends on our collective salvation. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you'll realize your true potential, that you'll become full grown" (emphasis mine).

I just worry that this way of emphasizing individual over other, as I said above, tips the scale; but again, he may have in essence meant "But also..." That is what I would have wanted him to say; that is, that we should expand our concern to others because "a, b, and c": a) we have an obligation to others; b) we have a debt to pay those who helped us get where we are; and c) because we have an obligation to ourselves. He clearly emphasizes "c," though perhaps that was unintentional.

I think the three (though cumulatively it's probably only two: self and others), need to be seen as a sacred balance. When in balance, we can have a healthy equilibrium; when out of balance, it's just that, tilted too much towards either individual benefit at the cost of communal health (which some see as the state of affairs in America), or towards communal benefit at the cost of individual health (which some see as the result, in the past at least, of communal approaches in countries such as Japan).

I'll end with a line from sociologist David Popenoe, in a piece titled "The Family Condition of America: Cultural Change and Public Policy" (part of this book). In that piece, he notes that some countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, "combine individualism with a moderate collectivism," referring to that balance as "communitarian individualism." He continues: "Individual goals are important, but they are blended with strong communal concerns and feelings of national solidarity. Self and community are in better balance than in other highly developed nations, especially the United States" (emphasis mine). He does note that these countries have some characteristics that make this balance easier, such as more homogeneous societies, relative geographic isolation, and cultures less affected by various qualities of modernization (such as commercialism and the individualism it often encourages). (As a sidenote, I am thankful for our diversity, though some such as Robert Putnam have pointed out that that same diversity gives us a steeper challenge; read this article about his recent research on the subject, or the full paper he wrote on it (PDF) in 2007--both are well worth the read).

As I said, there is clearly more to think about with all of this, but I wanted to put some of my thoughts down on it all. And, for my part, I hope that Obama does understand and aim for a balance of individualism and communalism--I think he may very well, but that this may just not have been articulated exactly in his above speech; also, I don't want to confuse any into thinking that I'm not ecstatic--I am--about Obama's rise and current position; I think it's monumental for our future in so, so many ways (and will still throw up a quick post with a few favorite lines from his inaugural speech here soon!).

Update: I just remembered this neat TV piece Bill Moyers, of PBS, did a few months ago on Alan Greenspan (Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987-2006). Greenspan had just testified before Congress about the financial crises of recent. Moyers talks about how Greenspan was a big admirer of Ayn Rand, going on to basically suggests that Greenspan reflected her view of government in his own approach to it. The piece then goes into how Greenspan admitted to some extent during his testimony that his philosophy didn't work, at least in terms of the financial crisis and the inability of the financial industry to self-regulate--worth a watch, and the video isn't super-long.

Update 2: In having all this come to back to mind, I took another look at the section I quoted from Obama above...I think I may see more of where he is coming from now. It seems that it could be read as encouraging more full grown people in general, not necessarily as looking out for oneself at the expense of others...though perhaps becoming "full grown," and simply being an individual in charge of keeping oneself alive, we necessarily end up looking out for ourselves somewhat more than others. Yeah, this all brings up some substantive considerations, though some healthy ones I think...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Looking Back to Move Forward

I wanted to write a post highlighting parts of President Obama's kicking inauguration speech that resonated with me, but will have to throw that up in a few days (and will then have to try to get out of the habit of putting stuff up here (possibly)--too much going on these days!). But I just read a crucial piece in The American Prospect, sent my way by my wonderful Aunt in Greece--she often has a better pulse on life a la American politics than many of us here at home thanks to ubiquitous news availability. The point of the article is summed up in its last, simple sentence, as it relates to various grievances with the Bush Administration and the financial industry:

"Sometimes, a rearview mirror is just what's needed to help see the road
The article is called "Truth, Reconciliation, and Obama: How should Obama deal with Bush's legacy?" and it's by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect. The two paragraphs below, taken from the article, cut to the quick of the issue (the first dealing with constitutional Bush Administration abuses and the second with the financial industry):

"...[I]t is not quite enough for President Obama to simply reverse a series
of Bush executive orders. The abuse of constitutional powers under Bush was so
extreme that some kind of high-profile reckoning is required. It may even
require trial and punishment of some high-level offenders, so that we are not
left with a legacy of officially sanctioned torture in which only the lowest
level G.I.'s were left to take the fall. At the very least, a public accounting
of constitutionally dubious uses of executive power by some kind of prestigious
commission that recommends safeguards for the future would help put closure on
the era and prevent a repetition...

Before the financial reforms of the New Deal could proceed, it took the
masterful investigations of what came to be known as the Pecora Committee
(actually the Senate Banking and Currency Committee) in 1933 and 1934. By laying
bare the abuses and educating the public as to what had occurred (and this was
before live TV coverage), Pecora laid the political groundwork for enactment of
what had previously been considered impossibly radical reforms. These included
bringing securities markets under strict federal regulation for the first time
-- an achievement largely undone by the regulatory default of recent
decades...What Congress needs is a select committee with wide ranging powers to
investigate just what occurred, so that reforms will be strong enough to prevent
a repetition. Radical reform always requires public education and mobilization.
Sometimes, a rearview mirror is just what's needed to help see the road

Hear, hear--and as Kuttner also notes, "This process should not be undertaken lightly. The Whitewater persecution and the impeachment of Bill Clinton was political farce. Yet the Watergate investigations of Richard Nixon culminating in an impeachment and a presidential resignation were not divisive; they were clarifying and unifying. So it is not simple 'recrimination' to come to terms with historical abominations." I'm personally not sure if I think Obama will take a strong, while balanced approach to this--I hope so, and think there's indication in some of his thoughts and action that he may.

On a related note, I saw that this post on The Nation's website mentions an attempt to address some issues with the handling of the US Attorney firings under the Bush Administration:

"Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. issued a
subpoena to Karl Rove requiring him to testify regarding his role in the Bush
Administration's politicization of the Department of Justice, including the US
Attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
The subpoena was issued pursuant to authority granted in H.R. 5 (111th
Congress), and calls for Mr. Rove to appear at deposition on Monday, February 2,
2009. Mr. Rove has previously refused to appear in response to a Judiciary
Committee subpoena, claiming that even former presidential advisers cannot be
compelled to testify before Congress. That 'absolute immunity' position was
supported by then-President Bush, but it has been rejected by U.S. District
Judge John Bates and President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as
'completely misguided.'

'I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to
its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an
important step along the way,' said Mr. Conyers. Noting that the change in
administration may impact the legal arguments available to Mr. Rove in this
long-running dispute, Mr. Conyers added 'Change has come to Washington, and I
hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it's time for
him to talk.' "

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rated in top ten Obama blogs by, I'll take it!

So I'm about to (likely) retire this blog (though I'll leave it up here for posterity still), and was doing a quick search on it--Google and other search engines have this neat tool where you can search for any pages that link to yours. For Google, you type "" So, I did a little search to see what links to my website there might be, and though there wasn't much out there, I was pretty excited to find this (click to enlarge):

Yeah, that's me down there circled in green. The website is "," and it's basically a big 'ol database that sorts and rates blogs--pretty interesting to wander around in. If you can make it out in the picture, they did a list of top ten Obama and top ten Hillary blogs back in May. Who knows what their analysis level, it was fun to find though, and some of the others looked decent in clicking on them. They've still got the website up for it here if you're interested. I'm not sure how press releases end up on newspaper sites, but was kind of fun to see that the press release sent out also showed up in my Google search for some like Reuters.