As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News Of The Good

I've been slamming the President enough the past couple days, here are a few things that he's recently gotten right.

• Continuing his full restoration as an environmentalist, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has put a stop to a Bush-era draft plan to allow offshore drilling on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

"To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside" the plan "and create our own timeline," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in a statement.

Alleging that the Bush administration "had torpedoed" offshore renewable energy in favor of oil and natural gas, Salazar said he was extending the public comment period by 6 months.

"The additional time we are providing will give states, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas," he said.

Salazar also ordered Interior Department experts to compile a report on the Outer Continental Shelf's energy potential — not just oil and gas, but also renewables like wind and wave energy.

I mean, it's just stunning to see sound policy coming out of the federal government again, so we'd do our best to acknowledge it.

• Obama is also looking to keep Patrick Fitzgerald on as the US Attorney for Northern Illinois. This is a merit-based appointment as well as one with an eye to continuity, as Fitzgerald is currently readying his case against Rod Blagojevich. But Fitz has done an excellent job, not only on the Plame case but on cleaning up corruption in the Land of Lincoln. Good move.

• This could be the most striking - a progressive policy choice for the US drug czar.

According to both local and White House sources, President Barack Obama will nominate Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy—a cabinet-level position commonly referred to as the Drug Czar—an appointment that could signal a substantive departure from our nation’s current marijuana-focused, interdiction-heavy drug policy, and a more realistic and progressive approach toward the issue of drug abuse in general.

Within the context of career law enforcement professionals, I think it safe to label Kerlikowske a “progressive.” During his ten-years at the helm of the Seattle Police Department and his current term as president of the Major Chiefs Association, Kerlikowske has been a vocal advocate for gun control and community policing, while serving as a prominent critic of the use of intrusive data mining techniques as a tool for combating domestic terrorism. But while he hasn’t been particularly outspoken on drug control policy, Kerlikowske’s relative silence is encouraging in itself, considering the progressive mores and statutes of the city whose laws he has enforced for the past decade.

While Kerlikowske opposed a 2003 citizens initiative making marijuana in Seattle a “low priority crime,” calling the measure vague and confusing (and… well… most initiatives are), he emphasized to local reporters at the time that marijuana possession and use already was a low priority, and in fact, Seattle’s already low marijuana prosecution rate has dropped even further since the measure’s passage, indicating a responsiveness to the will of the voters.

A saner drug policy is one of those third rails of American politics that is much easier to perform through shifts of emphasis than legislation, and perhaps Kerlikowske will signal that shift.

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