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

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

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.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My radio debut, yo

Yeah, so at the suggestion of my good mother, I sent off a version of one of my blog posts here to a number of places--and they actually let me on the radio. It was cool, sitting in front of the professional mike with a crazy computer screen showing the audio recording, all that stuff. It was for the local NPR station where my parents live, in Harrisonburg, VA; what's also neat is that it was the same radio station that plays in my hometown, Staunton, VA (along with Charlottesville and some other areas), so I was able to speak pretty frankly about my political perspective to some of the people in the region I grew up. It was for a little something WMRA, the local radio station, calls "Civic Soapbox," where they air short pieces from listeners; on the main webpage for the program they explain some of what they're aiming for with it (and being one who thinks that civic engagement has, as I actually mention in the piece, sadly declined, I love the concept):

"Is there a subject about which you feel strongly? Would you like to add your voice to the other voices heard on public radio? If so, how about writing three and a half minutes worth of your thoughts on that subject and sending them to us? Civil, community-based discourse is an important aspect of the democratic process."

You can actually check out the two pieces my mom has done for the program over the last year or so here and here--they rock, just like my motha. I wrote about her more recent one in this post at the time. With mine though, here you go, it's just a quick piece, but anyone interested can listen to the final audio of me reading it, as it was aired, here. I also pasted the text below. The piece is called "First Principles":

At 27, and having had an unfortunately late entrance into civic life (around three years ago), it's been healthy to feel out my thoughts this past year on politics and politicians, government in general and the issues in particular. As I now weigh my thoughts at the beginning of a new year, I find myself coming back to first principles.

One, I believe, is that a society has a fundamental duty to help the most vulnerable—to "promote the general welfare," as our Constitution puts it. Our general welfare has declined―through unregulated mortgages, a preemptive war that drew in many of our most vulnerable, an economy and tax system tilted towards the wealthy, and a health care system that multiplies in cost, seemingly without end.


The people allowed it. So many of us allowed it. As Plato put it, albeit slightly harsher than I would in this case, "The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." Finally, with this election, we have once again shown that it is appropriate to gather together to promote the general welfare through sensible governance and civic engagement.

It didn't happen magically though—our coming President drew it out of us. While many of us know too well where we are not, either personally or as a country, Barack Obama talked to us about where we can be. "Yes we can," he spoke into our collective memory—not just as a vision of how to win an election, but of something much more lasting: of how to make a people realize they can rebuild their country if they decide to.

So, in my view, our President-Elect has brought to us first principles: simple, even modest ideas of returning this country to the many hands of its people; prodding us to get our hands dirty as we build and develop; calling us to reach down for the most vulnerable and balance out the playing field. It’s all very sensible, down to the specifics–a health care system that anyone can afford; infrastructure and alternative energy projects for new jobs and a more stable country; diplomacy for a more humane foreign policy.

Everyone will stand deceived though, including Mr. Obama, if we put this on his shoulders alone. He is singular, one American, and appears to realize how important it is that we start thinking about things in the plural—to "enlarge our sense of we,” as social scientist Robert Putnam puts it.

And does that not bring us full circle? That is, if we the citizenry have allowed our country to turn bleak, as it has, mustn’t we be the ones to right it? The President-Elect seems to think so. Beyond the campaign he ran, nowhere is this more apparent than in his concentrated focus on national service—from his bold agenda to expand it, down to the tab it gets on his website, under “America Serves.”

All this adds up to a visionary paradigm shift from President Bush, who infamously squandered American’s post-9-11 desire to serve by calling on us to, of all things, shop. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has shown he sees service and citizen engagement as integral, at all times, to the maintenance of a balanced world and a healthy democracy. And so the choice becomes ours, not only to hope—as Mr. Obama has so rightly encouraged—but also to work for that more just, more communal world that he’s helped so many believe is possible.