Saturday, January 31, 2009
Also, according to interviews with Border Patrol Agents, the 700 mile wall that has been spread along different parts of the border has made a huge difference in keeping illegal immigrants and smugglers out. The wall has allowed the Border Patrol to funnel all traffic through various choke points created by difficult geography and a massive concentration of agents and technology. As such, the likelihood of catching illegal migrants and smugglers has gone up significantly.
Yet, many smugglers and migrants are still getting through, and some of them pose a direct threat to our society. What is Obama going to do about this? His appointment of Janet Napolitano to Director of Homeland Security is a good start. As former Governor of Arizona, Napolitano has experience dealing with the border. Other than that, we have little idea what Obama tends to do with the border and drug war that threatens to spill over it. Little was said about this issue during the campaign, but most experts agree it is the most pressing homeland security issue facing the United State today.
I know the issue of securing the border is a contentious one. Republicans argue for more fencing, agents, etc while Democrats argue for sweeping legislation that makes it easier for migrants to come to the US legally. What do you all think should be done?
What I found very interesting about this anti-Employee Free Choice Act ad (from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, no less...), which was all over the Washington Times website today, was the way it tries to build on the good will towards Obama's popularity. Ironic, given that Obama supports the EFCA... and implies that conservative groups see little benefit in confronting a popular president directly.
An interesting point, though, in the Washington Post article linked above--while Obama has chewed out corporate executives over compensation bonuses and the purchase of a private jet, he missed the chance to do so when he met with several execs publicly last week. Harder to play a tough stance when you're trying to work with the offending party...
Seems like an early example of Obama using his organizational muscle to try to reach around political barriers.
Enlightened effort to engage the grassroots? Or a "Brave New World" propaganda crusade? Feel free to debate in the comments.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
After being maligned for nearly two years over low ratings, Katie Couric is making a slight comeback (ratings up 5% from last year). The article from WashPo presents many reasons for this uptick (Palin interview, Obama "change message" has spilled over into traditional world of news, etc) and I can't help but wonder if this represents a new chapter in network news programs. Charlie Gibson (chair of ABC's evening news program) is 65 and probably won't be around for much longer. Will ABC follow CBS and choose a woman to replace him?
The Republicans are suddenly singing the same song and I, for one, am suspicious. After all, the bill was going to pass without Republic support and everyone knew this. It is pretty clear that it is not perfect and no relief effort will be perfect. However, this is an opportunity for those Republican's vying for re-election to say what they did and "did not" vote for in 2009. Why vote yes if you don't have to? The answer is because it the vote can prove controversial and useful a couple of years down the line. If this is the case, they had better placed their bets wisely. If this goes down in history, as it will, as the great initiative that saved millions of lives if not revived the economy, they will be left out of the picture.
One more thought, I myself, am still not settled on the stimulus package but the alternatives are no better. If there is one thing I understand is that the President needs to act, and act now. Real people are loosing real jobs. Prudence should have been exercised when we decided to start a war we can't afford to finish.
The Tips That Will Enable Complete Dominance in the Workplace, Our Collective Wisdom
- Volunteer to do things
- Think of your current internships skills transferability for future jobs
- Making personal connections as best/often as you can
- Lunch strategy-- get anyone you can to go out to lunch, try to get the upper level employee’s to go out and often they will extend a hand
- Take advantage of the specialized insider knowledge that staffers may be able to offer
- Get people to talk about themselves, that will give you insight into how things actually happen rather than how they may appear
- Making connections with the important people that you come to meet and keep in mind your first impressions
- Network within the company if desired to see about future employment
- See how much sway being an intern can have in the company, and its hiring practices
- Get in peoples face and let them know you want to help, often this is the most effective way to allow work to come your way
- Network with other interns; get to know what and whom they may know. They may be able to connect you to people outside your current office.
- Get to work on time, if not early. The late bird doesn’t even get a chance to see the worm (come on, it’s funny)
- Shadow someone for a day and see what the texture of their day is like, rather than being stuck in your day and only guessing
- Be careful about who and what you are talking about, when you are least expecting it someone is most likely watching and you can’t take back those things you said about an employee’s dandruff
- Look for the potential to take a trip to “independent study land” if possible while at your internship, as you are at your job look for potential things that you may write about and think of questions you can ask to further your topic
- Watch out for Nasty’s. An employee can normally burn your bridge, be careful to know that you cannot in turn burn theirs. Apparently they have a fire department and all we have is a bucket with a hole.
- Keep in mind that most organizations are not democracies; there is often a hierarchy. You have to be sensitive to the hierarchical nature. Pretend your in communist Russia and your not exactly important.
- Finally: If “The Office” applies to your intern life, question your intern life.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Most recent estimates on Iranian nuclear capability is that they are capable of producing weapons-grade uranium, but it will take them until mid-2010 to produce enough for a bomb. Lets assume Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons. Anyone want to take bets on whether Obama can get them to stop before its too late?
Colleen and I visited the Art and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institution) and the National Gallery of Art today evening. We then headed to Union Station for some great grub(we definitely recommend checking it out, there are several places you can try).
The highlight of the day for me was definitely the National Gallery of Art. The venue itself was breathtaking, constructed in the early 1900s on an impressive scale. If you appreciate culture and art, you should go!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
We live in an America distinct from the America when FDR battled what has come to be known as the Great Depression, yet the situation seems familiar. Back then, it was America's entry into WWII that saved the country from its failing economy. Yes, FDR's call for Federal programs helped stimulate the economy and create jobs, but governmental efforts only marginally alleviated the dire situation.
The problem is that the economy is an unwieldy beast that is difficult to tame, which explains why the lassos cast by the Federal Reserve and Congress over its thick throat snap and lie useless. If history is truly cyclical as Graham says it is, will we be able to climb out of the dark abyss of our sinking economy without the helping hand of another war? Can Obama learn from and go even further than FDR did to save us from slipping?
Monday, January 26, 2009
Policy has come to both regulate science & technology and be influenced by it. Laws regulate and define appropriate uses of technology, especially important after the advent of the internet. New developments in science (eg. stem cell research) bring to the table novel problems and therefore legislation.
But policy has also become increasingly dependent on science. For example, in the landmark opinion of Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackmun offered (well, an admittedly arbitrary) evaluation of the situation viewed under the lens of science. Though faulty, the fact that science and technology had been used in such a significant decision may be prophetic of what will influence future legislation and decisions.
As a proponent of research and development in sciences and technologies, I appreciated Obama's pledge.
Do you think that a turn towards science and technology in policy making will bode well for us, or do you think that we should stick to precedents, even in changing times?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I came to DC expecting to be a part of the crowd for every single inaugural festivity I could get to. However, I also wasn’t expecting it to be as cold as it was, and stupidly left my warm hat and gloves back at home, where I guarantee you they’re not being used because according to my parents it was 77 degrees on inauguration day. I resolved to go out to the Mall on Tuesday anyway – after all, it was history in the making.
7:30 a.m. Sanjana knocks on my door and tells me unticketed areas are filling up already and we have to go NOW. Let me think about it… no. I hadn’t even been able to make it through two hours at the inaugural concert on Sunday before I couldn’t feel my toes, and standing in the cold for five hours to not be able to see or hear anything properly didn’t seem worth it.
Instead, I went to Open City, just down the street from our apartments, with my roommate Colleen. I’d been there a couple of times already the previous weekend and noticed they had a big TV and didn’t seem to mind if people came and hung around for hours. It obviously wasn’t the same as going down to the Mall and watching with millions of people, but alternatively I had a great view, could hear properly, and I could even feel my toes!
Watching the crowds of people the CNN commentators kept showing reminded me of one of my favorite things about this election. Early on in the election, even before the debates, people were getting informed and involved in choosing the country’s next leader. Whether or not they, or you, support Obama, his candidacy got a lot of people more involved than they ever had been before, and that’s something I was thrilled to see.
As Obama walked onstage, I was struck by how unlike his usual self he looked. I’d seen him on TV numerous times, and I had tried to catch a glimpse of him at the inaugural concert, and all of those times he had been exactly as people had described him: comfortable with crowds, energetic, and excited for the future. This time, he shook people’s hands walking on stage without seeming to realize what he was doing. He wasn’t talking; he wasn’t connecting with the crowd. Someone later that day made a comment about how he looked like he’d been given Valium before going onstage, and I thought that sounded about right. It seemed to me that it was finally hitting him that he was actually officially the person who had to pull us out of several incredibly complicated situations. Obviously I’m sure he realized this to some degree before, but he seemed completely different this time.
When noon rolled around and Obama had yet to be sworn in, I got a little bit worried and confused. I recalled our last class where Professor Paris had made a comment about what happens if a president wasn’t sworn in by noon. I must have misremembered, because I recalled him saying he didn’t know what would happen because it was written into the constitution that the president must be sworn in by noon on January 20th. Luckily for me, CNN cleared up my confusion at 12:02 by announcing that regardless of the administration of the oath, Barack Obama became president at noon. This was doubly reassuring after the stumble while administering the oath and all the hype afterwards about whether or not that had any effect on Obama’s presidency. I later read that Bill Clinton was also sworn in after noon on his inauguration, so I’m glad there’s already precedent for this.
And of course, everyone in Open City went crazy once he was sworn in.
One last thing that was on my mind throughout the inaugural festivities: I was struck by the amount of religious language. Some of it I was expecting during the inauguration itself, but a five minute prayer before the inaugural concert? I was very uncomfortable with that, and it seemed unnecessary to me.
Clinton states : “America stands alone as the world's indispensable nation. Once again, our economy is the strongest on Earth. Once again, we are building stronger families, thriving communities, better educational opportunities, a cleaner environment. Problems that once seemed destined to deepen now bend to our efforts: our streets are safer and record numbers of our fellow citizens have moved from welfare to work.”
On the contrary, Barack mentions that “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”
These excerpts from two very great speeches are vastly different and speaks volumes for the Bush’s tenure and Barack’s promise. The interpretation is yours to make but I think one thing is very clear—Barack is operating at a deficit. In 1997 Clinton stood to lead a country at a time of prosperity. People were going to work, getting better education, and feeling safe. Barack is standing to lead a country that is insecure, where people are leaving work for unemployment and one step shy of welfare, and a place where healthcare is an issue for more than the aging population.
"Thousands of black faces, yellow faces, white faces. No pushing, no shoving. Cynics don't buy this, but there are times when hope is palpable (801)."From Pete Seeger singing "This Land is Your Land" at the inaugural concert, to the soaring strains of John Williams's "Air and Simple Gifts," to the breathless and generally courteous spectators (with the exception of numerous boos for the outgoing Bush), to the reassurance of President Obama that Americans could "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America," this atmosphere of promise was just as prevalent in the Obama inauguration as the Clinton one. But that indicates little about the future; we know the Clinton presidency was later mired in disorganization, electoral defeat, and scandal.
On the other hand, Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved from a stirring inauguration to a renowned presidency. Obama recalled much of Roosevelt's somber reflection in his remarks, probably seeking to emulate FDR's success against adversity. There is no easy way to predict how the Obama administration will perform--whether he will triumph in the vein of FDR or flounder in the vein of Clinton. But I see strong possibility for hope in the event's size, a unique aspect of the Obama inauguration.
More people attended Obama's inauguration than any in history, and the opprotunity for all to witness the event through the expansion of technology--JumboTron televisions, constant blogging, Twittering, and network coverage--allowed more people than ever to feel connected to the inaugural events. The inauguration was also a persistent subject of conversation in the media and among my peers; while I remember little of the time when President Bush was inaugurated eight years ago, I do not recall the event being such a household topic.
There is tremendous potential in this mass appeal of Obama's celebrity to inspire a new interest in politics. When millions of people descend on the National Mall just to watch a (frankly) fairly rote political event, it gives me great hope that those same millions will be inspired to later contact their representatives and get involved in their own communities.
In many ways, I believe this trend of reaching out to individuals and capturing mass support will represent Obama's greatest impact on American politics. He excelled in the most expensive presidential race in history mostly through small online donations, and he implemented steps in the transition to hear citizen comments (unlike any prior president). This is a potent tonic for the Bush years, when our commander-in-chief frequently dismissed public opinion; if Obama sets a new precedent of engaging Americans, he will have done much more for the country than simply navigating an economic crisis.
(I have also posted some more personal observations on the Inauguration at the Hamilton news site).
I did not know this at the time but Washington monument is nowhere near the capitol building; Nehs may have used different words but there was no way that this was close. In an effort to get closer we talked to just about every type of law enforcement that exists short of the SWAT team; whom I am sure was wading in the bushes waiting for some unruly Palin supporter to pounce on. What we gathered from the multiple people that protect our nation was that nobody had a clue what was happening, but what they were able to tell us was that we would not be getting any closer to President Obama than the road that sits 300 yards in front of Washington Monument. This was an unexpected twist of fate that would lead to your two main characters choosing different paths to watch Obama's ascension.
My compadre Nehs decided that he did not need to witness this event in person and told me that he would be leaving, granted the word choice may have been different but the end result was the same. This left me to battle the vicious cold with the hundreds of thousands that surrounded me; and so after a quick scan of the place I decided I would sleep at the foot of our nations phallic monument. I awoke at around 11:30 checked my now almost dead cellphone and decided that the two hour nap would have to be stopped as Obama-time was thirty minutes away.
I waited and eventually watched the speech itself, envying the warmth that that the Nehs was undoubtedly enjoying. Obamas speech would prove to be anything but celebratory as he let the nation know that together we would be weathering a storm; yet as I looked around the crowd stood silent(maybe too silent?). With that I realized Obama was telling the people the reality of the situation, there was not much sugarcoating of what he would like done and more of what he is planning to do. The only hope I have is that he will do as he said and help to put America back on track. After the speech I hustled to the exit and ended up getting pushed against a fence as people scrambled out of a 50 yard exit that was supposed to allow the entire crowd a clear exit. Unfortunately that was not the case and I would remain against a fence for the next hour and a half. All I can say is that I hope the Inauguration speaks more to the poor organization that took place during the Bush Administration(when it was planned), and not the Obama administration.
In closing I was walking by the White house today; a man and a woman were walking together and the woman turned and said "The White house sure does look pretty regardless of who does live there". The man then turned and said, "Yea, but it does look a little bit prettier now."
About 4 hours later though, several thousand people in the tunnel realized that the line was not moving and that they would spend the inauguration underground. Not good. It turns out that the purple section had been shut down earlier due to a security breach.
However, I managed to escape the tunnel with Maggie in tow and we ended up right behind the gates looking onto the capitol building listening to Obama's speech.
I really enjoyed his speech and while it had a somber tone to it, it also was hopeful. I believe that his speech was a good indicator of the mindset that he is entering into the presidential office with and hopefully it will help him lead our country in a better direction.
The inauguration of Barack Obama may not have changed the world or helped cure the many issues plaguing our country at the moment. However it is still incredibly significant. One would think the customers at open city would not Obama’s most intense supporters, since they were in DC and opted to watch on TV. However this theory was immediately disproved when I saw and heard these people stand and cheer nearly every time a shot of Obama appeared on the TV in front of them, which was approximately every five seconds. This scene, along with the shots of people lining time square to see the new president take his oath, and the million standing in the wintery DC conditions for hours, many in tears, to witness the occasion first hand made me contemplate the fact that Obama only received 53% of the popular vote.
Later when I was back at Calvert-Woodley I came across a site with pictures of inauguration viewings not only across the country but also across the world. Many of these photos were of foreigners embracing and Americans crying. These pictures really cemented the idea that not only is our country ready and excited for change, but we are ready for unity. Going from the second inauguration of George Bush, which was the least watched in history, to the Inauguration of Obama, demonstrates that the country is ready to lessen the divide internally and return to diplomacy externally. The viewing and attendance numbers of the inauguration shows many of those who chose not to vote for Barack Obama are still hopeful of the change he speaks of bringing.
I, like millions of other Americans, trekked through the crowds early Tuesday morning to see Obama’s “historical” inauguration. I found a spot next to the JumboTron a few hundred feet ahead of the Washington Monument and began waiting for Obama’s arrival. After what seemed like an eternity (and without my hat, which I believe was my downfall), the wintery conditions convinced me that I may not make it to 11:30 am. But with one look behind me, I knew I was going to. I had no choice – my exit strategy was completely blocked with people as far as my eyes could see.
When Obama finally delivered his inaugural speech, his words didn’t disappoint the crowd and resonated with me. I could see why so many people had come – he had the ability to take a crowd who had vigorously “booed” President Bush only moments before and transform them into a unified body ready for change. While I’m not convinced that President Obama’s economic stimulus plan will fulfill all of its goals, I do believe that he brings a new sense of hope and conviction.
Reading Philip Hamburger’s description of Clinton’s first inauguration reminded me to put this inauguration in perspective. At that time, DC also experienced the largest swell of inauguration visitors the city had ever seen. The citizens who stood on the mall were also filled with a sense of hope, of new beginnings. I agree with Charlie that the inauguration is just a beginning. Actions while in office define a president’s legacy, not necessarily their speeches on the election trail or the color of their skin. After Obama’s first executive orders, I can say that I was happy to have braced the cold to see him get sworn in as the 44th U.S. President. I look forward to how he will continue to lead our nation.