Things that have been taking up a lot of my time in the last month:
1. Opposing the Closing of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. I became an admin of the facebook group, "Save the Rose Art Museum," and spent a lot of energy trying to organize people online to save this amazing institution that is really one of the treasures of Brandeis. Losing the Rose will be an unconscionable loss to the Brandeis community and to future generations of Brandeis students. I only hope we can come up with a solution to stopping this sale.
2. Following the passage of the Stimulus Bill and the beginning weeks of the new Obama Administration. Several people have asked me to post on this site about this subject. I think liberals and conservatives alike have reasons to be upset about this bill. That said, I think that on balance, it represents a victory for progressives and for the Obama Administration.
From the conservative perspective, this became an opportunity for the Republican party to present a unified political front with a clear, common message - a feat their party has not been able to make happen in many years now. However, it is unclear if their resistance to the bill will pay any real political dividends in the long term. Poll numbers indicate that the President's numbers have stayed more or less consistently high during this process - hovering in the mid to high 60s in most national polls - while Republican leaders and the party as a whole have seen declines in their favorable ratings. To quote Markos' excellent insight: "Not only have the already unpopular congressional Republicans seen their net favorability ratings drop 10 points in a matter of a few weeks, but they now face a net 36-point deficit compared to congressional Democrats. And it's not as if congressional Democrats are all that popular (they're obviously not), it's just that people really hate the Republicans." People generally give Congress as a whole low marks, but support their local representative, regardless of their party. That said, national polls are clearly indicating that the obstructionist tactics of the GOP are not resonating with the American people. Like my own family, which is facing real financial hardship because of this recession, the American people are looking to their government to do something the help mitigate this recession. Just saying "no" sends a message to most Americans that the GOP is more interested in doing nothing and playing politics than delivering for the country.
All that said, I also think there are reasons for liberals to be a bit miffed by the outcome of this bill. President Obama bent over backwards trying to appease Congressional Republicans in both houses, cutting out programs he wanted because of their opposition, and making tax cuts 1/3 of stimulus in the package. The President did much to reach out the Republicans, so much that many Democrats felt they were actually being shut out of the process. When they turned around and didn't cast a single vote in the House for the bill, it was a real slap in the face to Obama, and exposed the real limits of bipartisanship - even in the age of Obama.
That said, there are reasons for liberals to be pleased about the results of this bill. It makes significant investments in many important areas like infrastructure, energy, health care, and education. Its tax cuts are unlike the Bush cuts in that they are much more focused on relieving stress on lower and middle class, working Americans. This bill will create or save millions of jobs for American workers, and that will help ease us out of this recession. Of course no bill is perfect, and even the best and brightest economists don't really know what the truly best course is to take. The spending bill we got reflects a political process that at the end of the day has delivered for the American people. Obama has put all his chips on red on this one, publicly stating that if his efforts to turn the economy around in 4 years don't work, we'll have a new president. Lets give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, and hope that his Administration will wisely execute this project in a way that really does help our economy grow.
One last thing to note on the political front is how powerful the small group of moderates in the Senate are becoming as a result of the filibuster-prone margin in the Senate. Without Collins and Snowe from Maine and Specter from PA, this bill would not have passed through the Congress. As a result, these moderate Republicans had significant say over what should be included and excised from the bill. As we move forward, it will be crucial for people from across the country who support Obama's agenda, and particularly in those northeastern states with Republican senators, to put pressure on them constantly. Only by bringing these Senators into the fold can Democrats get through all the important legislation they hope to pass in the next two years.
3. Organizing an event for the American Constitution Society at Penn law entitled "A Nation of Laws? Responses to the Alleged Crimes of the Bush Administration." It will take place on March 5th here at Penn Law, and I am very excited about it. The event, will present a thoughtful, nuanced discussion of the possible crimes of the Bush Administration – most notably torture, but also illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, extraordinary rendition, and other abuses of executive power. I would like the discussion to focus on response to these alleged abuses: what they should (or shouldn't) be, and how such processes could come about. The goal is to promote a vigorous debate within our Law School about the importance of the rule of law, and how it should be respected in this case.
4. The Summer job hunt. I will be interning in the office of Judge Manfredi, a Superior Court judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Please. I am looking forward to it very much because I will get a judge's view of the litigation process, working intimately with Judge Manfredi to learn all about the many different types of civil litigation working their way through Philadelphia state courts. In addition, I will get to see all stages of the litigation process, and observe hundreds of attorneys in their professional capacity, learning from them what it takes to be a successful advocate and litigator.
5. Studying for Law School. Same old, same old...
I hope to start posting more regularly, even if it is just short things of interest to me that might be of interest to my readers.