Monday, February 23, 2009

Obama Watch

I know, same old story, there is simply too much going on with the economy to keep up, so why even try. Don't worry, we'll get through it, bit by bit.

So the economy sucks. What is Obama doing to fix it? Essentially it's a three-pronged approach:
  1. Spend a bunch of government money to get things going again;
  2. Fix the banks so that they can loan people and businesses money again; and
  3. Help people with their mortgages so they don't lose their homes.
Let's start with #1. The official name of this prong is the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." The gist is that if company's don't have the money to give people jobs, the government does. The White House launched a web site called where you can read up on the plan and see where the money is going.

A couple of opinion articles about this mess by two of my favorite columnists:
If you're feeling brave, here is a link to the full text of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Still don't understand how we got into this mess? Don't worry. Here's a great article from a fellow C.Post contributors to help explain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Freedom of Conscience

A thought provoking article titled Legislating Immorality on NRO.

Judgement is a vital necessity of life. We formulate our opinion and navigate our life according to this belief. It allows us to function. As a society we hold certain values and beliefs as communal and call them laws. As individual values change, so do the laws. But at what point is another's opinion legislated as right or wrong? Are there two truths?

I believe marriage is a sacred union between man and woman, ordained by God, to be performed by the power of the priestood in the Temple of the Lord. Applying this definition, marriage by the state and civil unions differ greatly from MY view of marriage. Honestly I do not care if civil unions are renamed marriage in the state of California: others' definitions of marriage are clearly different from my own and I don't advocate legislating my definition upon them. Although a majority in California felt to do so, I feel it will be overturned in the court system as it was in the past.

Yet the court system, designed to protect the rights of individuals, is a double-edged sword, currently swinging in a dangerous direction. The article sited two instances: doctors sued for not providing elective treatment according to their own conscience and a company threatened into providing services that they had previously refrained from giving. Do the doctors have rights to refuse IVF? It depends if it is a moral question or a civil rights question. Can eHarmony refuse to offer same-sex couples? Once again it depends on which truth you subscribe to.

I have felt for some time that conservative beliefs have been targeted, disparaged and renamed as narrow-minded, ignorant and even oppressive. Yet at the same time, liberal beliefs are called accepting, reality or even rights. While I recognise that many do not agree with my personal beliefs, conservatives and liberals alike, I maintain that I have a right to believe, act and vote according to my conscience. I maintain that others have a right to do so as well.

Proposition 8, 14 simple words, has opened Pandora's box. Which values and beliefs are moral and which violate civil rights?

I cannot interpret the delphic riddle, but I fear the sword of Damocles hangs over the Freedom of Conscience, ready to pierce the Diversity of Belief which we hold dear in this country.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Introducing: Obama Watch

While it might sound like something you would read on the cover of Us Weekly or see on E! News, hopefully "Obama Watch" will be a bit more substantial. Let me explain.

Obama Watch is simple. It's a new feature of The Citizen Post in which I, or anyone else interested, will post articles, blog posts or other news articles detailing the actions taken by the Obama administration and compare those to what Obama said he would do during the campaign.

As many of you already know, I voted for Obama. I've supported his campaign for quite some time, I wrote posts in support of it, I contributed money to it, I almost made calls for it . . . almost. However, as the politicians like to say, now that the election is over it's time to put partisanship aside. I agree. I also think putting partisanship aside should work both ways. And so, while I supported Obama during the election, now that he's going to be President it's time to put that support aside and watch what he does with a bipartisan eye.

This blog has received some criticism for being too left-leaning, even bordering on Obama worship. While I personally maintain that the opinions I shared during the election were based on a decision I made as a result of independent research, I also take such criticisms seriously--though I try not to take anything too seriously anymore. 

Enter the Obama Watch. Hopefully this will help to bring more balance to The Citizen Post, while at the same time helping us to stay involved in the process and keep our politicians connected to their campaign promises.

I'll go first.

Here's a link to an article in yesterday's edition of the New York Times outlining the role of lobbyists, and their money, in the Obama transition team. Lobbyist influence was a main talking point of the Obama campaign. He argued time and again that lobbyists' influence in Washington came between the interests of the people and those meant to govern on their behalf, and that he was going to stop it.

Here's a link to another New York Times piece talking about Obama's decisions of late on education reform and it's priority in his Presidency. As a reminder, in his Democratic nomination acceptance speech, Obama said in part, "I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American--if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education."

So how's he doing so far? In the spirit of bipartisanship, I prefer to let you read and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Keep It?

Interestingly enough, and perhaps most applicably, one of the issues we have debated a lot in American Heritage lately has been the electoral college. At first I used to consider controversy over the electoral college inappropriately unimportant. However further consideration dispelled this assuredly; it appears to be one of those issues utterly unsolvable, with extremely valid arguments on both sides. Who knows. We've been required to write several essays this semester over impending political issues, and I figured I would include the main points from my essay. Judging by the poll at the side (currently a 4/5 ANTI vote) I can see I have my work cut out for me. But here goes! These are in order of relevance and importance:

Because of

1. Preservation of state sovereignty

Since the college is based the representation from the Senate and House, each state has a certain amount of power in each election, that is almost ideally balanced. The larger states are more important to winning an election than the smaller states, as they have the most electoral votes. Perpendicularly, the smaller states have more influence than the larger states. States like Alaska and Wyoming actually end up being overrepresented in electors. If it was based completely proportionally, Alaska would only get 1 elector, and Wyoming would have less than a fraction of one (both currently have 3 electors). I see this as a good thing—the smaller states aren't shafted by the larger states, but they aren't granted too much power either. Without state sovereignty state borders might as well not exist; it becomes less about where people live as all areas are ultimately equal. Which isn't fair; each state is its own specific entity entitled to its own specific influence.

2. Dispersal of representation

This is an extrapolation of the first, but nevertheless important. Without the electoral college and state sovereignty, all a candidate would have to do would be to win over the more populous areas of the country. Since this is almost always synonymous with cities, the urban vote would be the only vote voiced in the election. Think of how many past elections would be different if they each relied on the urban vote! The electoral college keeps the rural vote from getting shafted, while still allowing other areas their say as well.

3. Removal of the public from the election

Generally this is used as an argument against the electoral college, but its important to note that this was intended by the founders of the Constitution. Obviously there are the occasional elections where the winner didn't as much of the popular vote as the loser. But this was foreseen by the founders, and it is always justified due to state sovereignty. Another thing to note is that of the House representatives, senators, and the president, the president is the only one still elected by an indirect election. Its important to remember that in this case the power of the public isn't being lost, it's just being applied differently.

4. Centralization around moderate politics

While third parties can often earn admirable portions of the popular vote, they almost NEVER earn any electoral votes for their cause. If they ever did, it would work much like the way other pluralist popular vote systems work, with the third party merging with a closer party in an attempt to beat the opposition. Keeping the two-party system intact prevents any extremist candidate from winning, as control of the middle is ESSENTIAL to an electoral victory.

5. Lack of past problems

This just refers to the idea that we depend on electors for our vote; what if they ever voted against the public? Its never happened since its inception, and I have a hard time believing it will ever happen. Electors who voted away from the norm (“faithless” electors) would almost certainly lose their public trust, political position, and likely any chances for future political careers.

6. Prevention of disaster

But if an elector ever did need to vote contrary to the public, it would almost undoubtedly happen in mass form. Say Ozzy Osbourne or somebody was running for president. Can you imagine? He would DEFINITELY win over the popular vote. It would be the electors' decision in this case to choose a more competent candidate in the interest of the public. They would certainly do it as a group, and I have a hard time believing they would be afterwards deemed faithless electors. Obviously this is an extreme case. The electors will only vote against the public if circumstances are ESPECIALLY demanding.

In essence, I guess it would be conclusive for me to say that while I do understand the opposition to the electoral college, in the end I don't feel like there's anything wrong with it. Aren't there other things we could be focused on fixing?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Silver Lining

I was pretty happy about the fact that the guy I voted for won the election (Kim still won't tell me who she voted for). I was one of the few who were happy around these parts. I have not gloated at all. In fact I have not once brought up the election results with anyone. As a show of my relief that the election is over, I took the Obama '08 magnet off my car. All that's left is an oval shaped clean spot.
A few days after the election, Kim was at a church activity. One of our friends came up to Kim and said they would like to talk to me to help them find the "silver lining" in the results of the election. He knew how I had voted. We invited them over for dinner this past Sunday.
I really appreciated the olive leaf that he was offering, and his sincere offering to try to understand my democratic viewpoint. He says he doesn't know very many democrats. Nobody in Idaho knows very many.
I wasn't really sure what to say to him. We discussed republican and democratic philosophy. We talked about pure socialism and pure capitalism, the spectrum that lies between, where on that spectrum we have been and where we could expect to be in the future. He was concerned that his boss would have to lay off workers because the business makes over 250k/yr. I was glad that the years of bully boy foreign policy (quoting Bishop Desmond Tutu) appear to be over. We were both concerned that maybe Joe Biden will turn out to be a Democrat version of the jerk VP we've had for the last 8 years. We were both upset about the way the Iraq fiasco went down. We were both glad we get to be part of history seeing the first African American US President.
We found that we had some core philosophical differences, we also found that we had a lot of common views.
I've come to think that the silver lining is this...we live in a free country. We're free to share and express our views, disagree openly with authority, and vote the way we see fit. We enjoy the protection of an inspired Constitution and we've just been witness to the miracle of democracy played out on a grand stage. I'm glad I was here to see it - and that my guy won:)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Electoral History

The election is finally over. I don't know about you, but I could use a break--sorry CNN, you've been temporarily black-listed (I'll miss you Wolf). Still, that doesn't mean we have to stop blogging, right? I hope not.

I thought it might be fun to take a stroll through some political history . . . you know, talk about politics without "talking politics." I found this really cool website (at least for politi-nerds like me) that contains detailed results of all of our country's presidential elections--way back to Mr. Washington himself. I thought I'd share some fun facts from the site:
  • Washington won our very first election in 1789 with a total of 85.2% (69) of the electoral votes
  • Washington did such a great job in his first term that he won re-election in 1972 with a whopping 97.8% (132) of the electoral votes
  • Washington's 97.8% number surprisingly isn't the highest percentage of electoral votes earned. That award goes to FDR who received 98.5% (523) of the electoral votes in 1936
  • Roosevelt's opponents in '36 were Alfred Landon (Republican), William Lemke (Union) and--check this out--Norman Thomas (Socialist). That's right, Socialist! And the guy got 0.41% of the popular your heart out Obama (sorry, we're taking a break, I forgot)
  • According to the site, on four occasions the winner of the election actually lost the popular vote: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George W. Bush (by the narrowest of margins) in 2000
Speaking of electoral votes, you probably already know by now that, in this country, when we vote for our presidents we're actually voting for how we'd like our state's "electors" to vote. Each state has a certain number of these electors (based mostly on population) who meet on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their official ballots for president. These votes are then sealed and sent to Washington D.C. where they are read before a joint session of Congress in January.

While these electors generally vote based on the results of the popular vote in their respective states, they are not obligated to do so. Only two of these electors in recent history have voted to the beat of their own drum. A Republican elector voted for Reagan instead of Ford in '76 and another Republican voted for the Libertarian rather than Nixon in '72 . . . blasted Republican mavericks (oops, can't help it). However, such rogue electors have never decided the outcome of an election; then again, there is still hope for the faithful McCain supporters out there (that was the last one, I promise).

Why the electoral college in the first place? Why not a simple majority vote of the people? Well, the framers of the Constitution were worried that "the people" were too spread out and would not have access to enough information to make informed decisions about who should be president, so they didn't want to leave it completely in our hands. They also didn't want to leave it completely up to Congress, fearing that would shift the balance of power. And so our good friend Alexander Hamilton came up with a compromise that is essentially our current electoral college system. 

But what about now? Surely we have easy access to enough information such that we can make informed decisions (did I hear three cheers for The Citizen Post just then?), can't we move to a popular vote? Interesting question. More than 500 constitutional amendments have been introduced to alter the electoral college system. Obviously they've all failed. Partly because it's pretty hard to amend the Constitution, but also in part because a lot of people aren't too excited about changing the current system. Anyway, that's a debate for another time after we've all rested enough to be ready to start debating again.

Speaking of which, I hope that time comes soon for you, but if not, don't worry, take your time, we'll be here waiting when you're ready to come back.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Have ideas on how we can improve The Citizen Post? I'm all ears:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Yesterday was indeed a momentous day in America's history. Regardless of your opinion of either candidates' opinions, I think we can all appreciate the significance of this election. Here are the words of our future president:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

Its the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

Its the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Its the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and hes fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nations promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nations next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy thats coming with us to the White House. And while shes no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what youve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didnt start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generations apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didnt do this just to win an election and I know you didnt do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how theyll make the mortgage, or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government cant solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, its that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one thats on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we cant, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when womens voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we cant, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.