Sunday, January 30, 2011

Debate: Whether the United States should strongly support democracy movements or engage in realist foreign policy

We'll be using the recent events in Egypt as a starting point for our discussion. For details on recent history, see here.

In addition, please read the following articles for Thursday's Debate:
1. The Worst of Both Worlds (framing of debate related to Egypt)
2. Arab World need bold U.S. support for Democracy (pro-democratization)
3. President George W. Bush speech (pro)
4. White House Wobbles on Egyptian Tightrope (con-realist foreign policy)
5. How to Not Spread Democracy (con)

The Gipper-Obama "Bromance"

Cover story of this week's TIME magazine is "The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan"
By Michael Scherer and Michael Duffy. (Yes, the writers actually used the word "Bromance" in the article.)

Might be relevant to your discussions about the American presidency.

A Washington program Alum :)

Israel Lobby Dictates U.S. Policy

I was very impressed by the power of AIPAC after reading chapter 9 in Smith's book. It reminded me of an article that I read in Professor Cafruny's International Relations class, which talked about how the power of AIPAC was, ultimately, hurting the U.S. I do not necessarily think that this was the case when Smith was writing, but America's close relationship with Israel, coupled with our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and saber rattling toward Iran, has certainly increased tensions with the Arab world. I found this article, which is very similar to the one I read in my IR class. The article is about a Harvard study that argues that "treating Israel as America's most important ally in the campaign against terrorism and assorted Middle East dictatorships both exaggerates Israel's ability to help on these issues and ignores the ways that Israel's policies make U.S. efforts more difficult." This would make for a good debate.

Blogs Gear Up for 2012

A development Smith could not have anticipated.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is that thing Al Gore invented?

Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show in 1994 completely confused by a newfangled thing called the "internet."

Looking forward to this film

Hoover was the master of the "power game." The Puppetmaster is an excellent biography. Can't wait to see what Clint Eastwood does with the story with Leonardo Dicaprio as young Hoover.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Of all the gin joints in the world

DC is a small place. I was having lunch with an alum at M&S Grill when my son and a friend were seated next to us.

America the Segregated?

Interesting analysis of geographic separation of races. Zoom into Washington DC to see how segregated the city is.

The Filibuster Lives

Busy day

Another busy day in DC. Excellent discussion about power games. Pizza at Ella's. Visit to National Portrait Gallery. Home just before rain turned to snow. Two inches of snow in Washington-- PANIC!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Most Americans Fall in Center

I attached an interesting (though somewhat outdated) article that covers a lot of what we talked about today in class. Although Smith wrote his book in a time when moderate politicians still existed, today most politicians are moving to the far left or far right. Are Americans really being represented by this fierce partisanship? 

Our Connection to Power

Hey Guys,

After reading Smith, I began to wonder about the connection that the "everyday", "average" American citizen has with power in Washington. Whether this power pertains to influence, authority, or a multitude of other potential definitions does not particularly. More, it is overall connection of American citizens with the common definition of power that I am most influenced in. These connections to power in Washington, more often than not, are not personal. Americans are largely connected to Washington through the media.

In the era of President Harry S. Truman, reporters numbered, as Smith describes, in the range of 25. Now, the White House Press Office counts passes for over 1,700 people, and this number is most assuredly growing rapidly. Even ten years ago, the ability to rapidly connect with news was not imaginable for the everyday public. Now, connecting with the District of Columbia includes everyday processes, such as the ability to check breaking news through a BlackBerry Smartphone or browse the Internet on an Apple IPad in the back of a taxicab. The resulting change has connected Americans in newfound ways not only to their government but also news as a whole.

While overall this change is a positive one, largely because of increased communication, awareness, and knowledge, there are several drawbacks. The primary one being that this advanced knowledge gives little time for DC to respond, and thus leaders are guided by largely different and changing regulations since the large important in modern media.

I hope to discuss this further as a class tomorrow.

All the best,

Peter M.

Origin of "Lobbying"

According to folklore, The Willard Hotel is often considered to be the place where we get the word "lobbying" because, as President Ulysses S. Grant would frequently have a brandy and a cigar in the lobby of the Willard, men seeking favors would talk to him there. Would be cool to check it out one of these Wednesday afternoons.
1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Power in the Form of Charisma and Vision

How President Obama is able to lead a nation struggling to maintain its power with the help of his personality and presence.

Nostalgia Blvd.

I found it slightly amusing to read the Senators and Congressmen hearkening for a more distant time in the Smith reading, nostalgic for the days when they could legislate without having to talk to their constituents or deal with interest groups, and back when they could go to dinner parties with their colleagues and all of their wives. I see their point and during particularly tense moments of the 111th Congress when the Republicans wielded the filibuster as a haymaker, there were a lot of articles written about how all of the 'civility' of Tip O'Neil or Lyndon Johnson's era are long gone. But stodgy nostalgia only goes so far, and reading these legislators whine about people crowding the nation's capital as social mobility became possible for more people in the country feels a little tone deaf to me. Particularly when you remember that these Senators and Congressmen who could do nothing but think about the good old days where good old boys themselves, unfailingly wealthy white males reacting to a country that was starting to make itself a

The insights into the Reagan presidency were fascinating, as well. Smith's descriptions of the relative lack of power Reagan had at so many different points during his presidency, even though today revisionist history paints him as an instinctive cowboy who floated around the White House putting out crisis after crisis with nothing more than Midwestern sensibility and a staunch belief in supply side economics.

Thinking about the real limits of executive power (even if in some sectors, such as national security, power is being concentrated more and more in the executive branch) as opposed to its perceived boundlessness won't stop being relevant. Even looking at something like President Obama's State of the Union speech. An unbelievable amount of focus was put on the SOTU by the media, with every commentator on every channel from CNN to Fox News to Telemundo to ESPN having to register an opinion on whether they thought it was a good speech or not, whether it accomplished what Obama needed it to accomplish. But the fact is, people never remember SOTU speeches, even though every year it gets a ton of hype, because tomorrow morning, things will go back to business as usual. Tomorrow morning, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill will re-draw their lines in the sand and continue playing chicken with the country's future, because even the most articulate and forceful of presidents, capable of reducing the Speaker of the House to tears (alright, so that's not actually much of an accomplishment), isn't going to change that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Typists and Twitterers

One thing that struck me about the vivid descriptions of the Reagan traveling White House, were the vast material necessities needed to operate basic administrative tasks. Where once a communications office needed a variety of typing equipment, faxes, phone lines, and institutional connections, Sarah Palin need simply log onto Facebook or Twitter to mobilize millions of supporters. As ND rightly points out, these very real technological factors have radically changed the see-saw or otherwise power structure into a much more fractured system.

Where Did Our Power Go?

Very good debate on Citizen's United.

The State of the Union Address: Reflecting Smith's "Power Game"

"Many people, not understanding how the game is played, are dazzled by political celebrities and feel they have to go to the top: to the president or his right-hand man, to the Treasury secretary, the senator, the committee chairmen... The insiders pay their respects to the person with the title and then work the serious issues with le-celebrated staff people who actually draft policy. The wise game player always paves the way to the higher-ups through the staff person."

This fundamental political axiom in the United States seems to have remained unchanged since The Power Game was published in 1988. Burdened with tasks of fundraising, maintaining a public image, and ensuring reelection, large political figures often spend little time policy-making. Instead, lesser known staff personnel exert a large amount of influence on policy decisions while the figurehead receives most of the recognition. Understanding this paradox helps distinguish washington "insiders" from "outsiders" such as Wyman (in Smith's example). This understanding helps define the power game: knowing the ins and outs of power in Washington.

Watching tonight's State of the Union address, I could not help but think about the power game. While Obama's optimistic message of American exceptionalism was certainly comforting, I found his entire speech to lack substance. That is not to say that these kinds of addresses ever get into specifics, but nevertheless, I was frustrated by the lack of an explanation of "how" to all of Obama's promises. My frustration reminded me of the complexities of power distribution in Washington. It made me wonder who was really behind all these new policy decisions. Most likely influencing Obama were a myriad of advisors, consultants, researchers, staff, etc. These people exerted their power tonight through the President's address. This is just one example of how Smith's notion that lower-level staff people often have significant power in Washington has remained true over the last twenty years.

Fox News Viewers Least Informed?

Interesting study finds media's sometimes malevolent power in influencing debate on some of the most pressing issues of the day.

The Illusion of Power

Smith points out that it is often necessary for the President to be both credible and likeable; however, Smith begins to err when he continues his train of thought by making the following assertion:

“In short, power depends heavily on the illusion of power. Presidents—past, present, and future—have less power than the country images, but the successful ones convey the impression of power and get reputations as strong presidents by playing down their problems and trumpeting their few clear victories.” (56)

Although it is true that the illusion of power can fool most at a glance, the above statement is no longer applicable to visions of the President. Technology plays an ever-increasing role in our society and now there is constant scrutiny coming not only from major news sources, but also any type of media (such as a class blog). The media is pervasive and very cynical, with the President always the first to be targeted. The media often highlight what is unfavorable, because such news is controversial and eye catching. The President and politicians can no longer hide behind their accomplishments. Instead they are now eternally on the defensive, reminding Americans of all that they have accomplished.

Anger Over Bipartisan SOTU Seating?

I received a lot of angry calls today at work about the bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address. Most of the people argued that Republicans won the election and should be able to show their disapproval of President Obama and his policies by booing him during the speech. In my mind, I imagine they thought this would make Obama seem more powerful by partially silencing his opposition. Do you think the bipartisan seating plan made Obama seem more powerful? Or do you think that these complaints were unjustified?

Finally Explaining Government Bureaucracy

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked"

I get it now...

Television and Power

In The Power Game, Smith discusses the effect of new media, specifically television, on the power game. He refers to it as a "major revolutionary ingredient in the new power mix", and says that new outlets for political news have allowed more politicians to be heard and become "policy entrepreneurs. However, I would say that since Smith wrote The Power Game, these new political news outlets have become more of a hindrance to power than he lets on. Michael Robinson argued that "the changes in the media have given...members more political visibility --and hence greater power -- than ever before". I would argue that many news outlets don't let voters come to their own conclusions, and instead act as a barrier between a politician's message and the voter. News outlets on television provide so much different coverage and so many different viewpoints that they undermine a politician's message rather than make it clearer. Thus, television in the 21st century often does more to hinder power than to spread it around.

The Power Game

The power game in DC seems more fragmented than in Smith's book. Not only is there a push and pull between Congress and the Presidency, but there is also a push and pull within Congress, within the administration, and among private interests involved with government. Michelle Bachmann's rebuttal to the SOU is clear evidence of this fact. The Republican party was unable to stop her from making the speech and she represents a significant power base in American politics. And Obama, whether on his terms or the Tea Party's, focused a great deal of his speech on budget taming. Influence seems to be cutting many more ways than Smith describes.

Widening the Circle

I felt that the most interesting (and original) concept that Smith raised was how groups or individuals who are losing an insider argument will leak information to the press in order to "widen the circle" and signal their supporters about the need to become involved with the issue or risk defeat. It seems to be a very useful explanatory narrative to keep in mind when reading media stories based on leaks.

Although I have no proof, after reading Smith this weekend I wondered if this idea applied to the recent media discussion over whether it's feasible or necessary for states to be able to declare bankruptcy in order to deal with their sizable deficits. For instance, this NY Times article and earlier ones discussed how policymakers were discussing bankruptcy options due to fears over state deficits. This option has been discussed for weeks, prompting varied counterarguments from a diverse group of scholars and think tanks, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities where I am currently interning. Most recently, Eric Cantor (R-VA) came out against this idea, which had been pushed by Newt Gingrich. I wonder whether the initial articles that discussed "behind the scenes" efforts were prompted by leaks from those policymakers opposed to a state bankruptcy option that they feared was possibly coming into vogue.

Job Candidate Presentation at RFF

Today I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation of a job candidate at RFF (where I am interning). The candidate was one of six applying to be a research fellow at RFF. While the presentation itself was a bit over my head, I did find the experience valuable for what I learned about the job market at think tanks such as RFF and competing universities.

Typically, men and women completing their Ph. D in various fields of economics spend 6-8 weeks traveling to various institutions and presenting their theses (as I witnessed today). The job candidate stood in front of a crowd of at least 30 of senior fellows, junior fellows, research associates, and research assistants, equipped with just a powerpoint presentation and a water bottle--no notes. He presented for well over an hour and could be interrupted at any moment with questions. It felt more like an interrogation than a presentation, with the audience questioning all aspects of the thesis from theory to methodology to interpretation.

I later spoke with some of my colleagues about the proceeding. They explained to me that this was a typical practice for job candidates. They also explained that think tanks such as RFF are often at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting job candidates. RFF often has to compete with top universities to hire the best researchers. A professor position is often more appealing to job candidates because it doesn't require the added burden of funding one's own research. In contrast, RFF fellows are responsible for applying for grants to fund some of their own research agenda. Still, those who want to focus primarily on research and find the university teaching requirement burdensome would probably prefer to work at a think tank.

Learning all this forced me to consider my own eventual career path. Although I'm not even close to ready to make such important decisions about my future, this experience gave me some important insight into a field I may eventually pursue.

Democrats and Republicans... more alike than you realize

Television and Politics

The latter half of the 20th century imposed the acquisition of a new skill set on United States politicians: personability. Power now means being able to engage viewers around through visual media -- appearance and public speaking to the masses became a crucial necessity to a successful campaign. As politicians entered living rooms, the essence of power as simply the ability to write well and be the brains behind policy and leadership has faded into the distance. This change has brought enthusiastic and energetic young politicians in the limelight: "as Michael Robins observed: "the changes in the media have given younger members and maverick members more political visibility -- and hence greater power -- than ever before" (38). Smith writes: "Quite clearly, television has offered a fast track to those with political sex appeal and a knack for personality politics" (37). Politicians must be actors. And as we have seen, some actors are destined for politics: Ronald Regan, Arnold Schwarzenager, Al Franken, Clint Eastwood, among others.

Now, everyone wants air time. Comedians, talk show hosts, politicians, and many many more people can now speak their mind on television to the masses of the United States. The array of channels and choices a modern viewer of US politics has also comes with biased opinions and most often slanted news. News channels are commonly known to sway stories in order to favor political parties and news is seldom straight facts anymore. Reading published, written media through newspapers declined as television shows with political information climbed -- at its peak in 2002, 82% of Americans got their news from television.

Now, the internet is the new television. With politicians using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other forms of newsfeeds, no one, political figure or average Joe, can be blocked from posting their beliefs and opinions for the world to see. Is the political world prepared to see, respond to, agree with, and combat the millions of Americans exercising their right of Free Speech?


"Lingo of Games"

The picture to the left is of me, the intern I work with, Collin, and Representative Tom Price (R-GA-6) taken today at the 2011 Professional Advocacy Conference for the American Association of Orthodontists. Patton Boggs represents the AAO and organizes a conference each year that provides Orthodontists nationwide an opportunity to visit Capitol Hill. The doctors discuss issues surrounding health care and small businesses with various Congressmen. Before their day on the Hill, the Orthodontists prepared for their visit and listened to a Senator and seven Representatives speak- I had the opportunity to meet them all! I noticed that every man used sports analogies or referred to a sports team within the first two minutes of their speeches. The language politicians use has not changed since Hedrick Smith wrote The Power Game in 1998. Smith explains that Presidents Reagan, Nixon, and Ford all used athletics as metaphors for political power games.

Below are are few examples from the conference:
"The State of the Union is the kickoff to the discussion on health care" - Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA)
"John Jonas [Partner at Patton Boggs] is the quarter back on those issues" - Kevin O'Neill [Partner at Patton Boggs]
"I am from Pittsburgh so I know about the SuperBowl"- Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA)
"Go Packers!" - Representative Ron Kind (D-WI-3)
"I will have to punt that question to Eugenia" -Kevin O'Neill

Porcupine Power is Illusory

I thought that Smith's book was very interesting and I really enjoyed the anecdotal evidence that he used to back up his various arguments. I also thought many of his analogies and insight into Washington made sense and were correct as far as I could tell. I did disagree with him on a central issue though. He seems to glorify the use of "Porcupine Power," which is essentially the power to repel your enemies by being a nuisance. Smith provides good evidence as to when "Porcupine Power" works, but I did not think he spent nearly enough time examining it critically. He spoke at length about how Senator Jesse Helms was able to hold up certain legislation and get his way through being a bully. I agree that there is certainly a time to use strong arm tactics, but I do not think lasting power, and certainly not influence, can be gained in this fashion. The ability to force your opponents to shelf a bill simply because they do not want to put the effort into defending it is power in a way, but the reality is that those types of bills really are not that important. Any sponsor of a critically important bill, like the healthcare bill, is going to fight extremely hard to get that piece of legislation passed even if it means tangling with a "Porcupine." Additionally, Smith comments towards the end of the chapter that Senator Helms had a lot of difficulty getting his bills to pass due to the hostility of his fellow senators. This is, I think, the fundamental problem with "Porcupine power." Killing legislation is one thing, but the greatest Senators and Presidents are the ones who get things done. Senator Helms will remain notorious for his stalling tactics and his ability to galvanize his supporters, but Lincoln will always be immortalized as the great compromiser and quintessential politician. Finally, I do not think that Senator Helms' position would be taken kindly in the current political climate, where voters have routinely punished politicians, especially career politicians, who they perceive as inhibitors as opposed to enablers.

Top Ten SOTU Addresses

In Defense of Citizens United

Mr. Smith will be a panelist at AHI Colloquium in April. To read the whole piece, google the words "incumbent's bane."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Running in the DC Metro Area

For those that like to run, find solid places can be difficult in DC. Some are satisfied with jogging on the treadmill at the gym beneath Calvert-Woodley or at a local gym. However, both of these are too boring for many runners, myself included. Therefore, in the past summers that I have lived in DC, I've set out to find several greats spots and areas to go running.

Two Favorites:

The first is the Mount Vernon trail. The path actually begins in Roslyn, Virginia (a section of Arlington County) that is right across the Potomac from Georgetown and easily accessed by the Key Bridge. The 17-mile trail runs from the beginning of Roslyn through the backwoods of Arlington and Alexandria. The trail is mobbed with bikers and runners during the rush hour, as many take it to work in the DC area. But, at other times, especially as you get closer to Mount Vernon. Most joggers don't do the 17-mile trail in it's entirety (even though it is arguably best towards the end) but it is definitely worth the experience, if only for a couple of brief miles.

The second is the Monument Loop. This is best done in the early morning hours when traffic is light. Take the Metro to Farragut North. Run from the Metro Station to the White House for a brief Warm Up. There are then several possible routes to take.

However, perhaps most picturesque is as follows: run along Penn. Ave. to the Capitol, loop up behind the Supreme Court, and pass the Library of Congress and the House side of Congress before returning along Independence Avenue. You can then make your own route past the Washington Monument and back up to the White House.

With this, you successfully incorporate almost every D.C. landmark into a fantastic DC morning run.

Enjoy, and be safe!


Visit to the Air and Space Museum

Today, Nat, Katherine, Peter, Julia, Patrick, David, and I visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum! Despite the frigid outdoor temperatures, the trip was a great success. After successfully navigating the DC Metro system, we arrived at the National Mall, only to begin walking in the wrong direction! Being smart Hamilton students, however, we quickly realized the error of our ways and headed in the right direction. When we arrived, we purchased our tickets to the Planetarium showing of "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity"--Thanks, Hamilton! We then explored the various exhibits, including the memorable Wright brothers exhibit. We then made our way to the Planetarium for what was truly an unforgettable almost 3D experience! In our reclining seats, we travelled through the Milky Way and beyond! Like a raging river approaching a waterfall, black holes suck matter into their dark vortex through the ultimate force of gravity. After the showing, we visited the World War II exhibit and learned the crucial role of aircrafts in war. Finally, we finished the day with some McDonalds happy meals at the food court. A great day for all!

Controversial Sports Article By Dan Shaughnessy

Goodbye Joe...A Bitter End

It has been all over the news this week that Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is planning to retire when his term is up. Yet, his interview on Morning Joe has garnered much more attention. In the interview, he called Arriana Huffington "sweetheart". I think we can all agree that it was a dismissive and inappropriate thing for him to say, but what was more interesting was his defense of intelligence that there were in fact WMD's in Iraq that triggered a controversial invasion in 2002. Come on Joe...

Cities Are The Future

Interesting magazine article from the Times a few months ago. Enjoy!

Gun Debate: Is NRA Pushing Too Hard to Normalize Guns?

A trip to the Hirshhorn

On Friday I took a trip to the Hirshhorn Museum, which is one of the many Smithsonian museums. Although it was too cold to enjoy the sculpture garden outside, I had a great time looking through the collection. I chose to visit the Hirshhorn because it holds mostly modern works of art, something I studied last semester at Hamilton. One of my favorite artists in the collection is Willem de Kooning. De Kooning painted many abstract expressionist works and was friends with many other famous artists such as Jackson Pollack, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko. I definitely recommend a trip to the Hirshhorn. Not only can you see some great works of art--it's also free!

McCarthy Gun Control Bill Debate (Thursday)

Please read these articles in advance of Thursday's debate. Our framing question:

Does the McCarthy bill stand to reduce the incidence of gun-related violence? Keep in mind the constitutionality of and practical arguments for and against the McCarthy bill.

Sweet spots for watching the SOTU

We'll have to throw our own party- I'll bring cookies

Cutting subsidies to ethanol?

Perhaps a future IPO debate. To get fill op-ed, google "amber waves ethanol."

SOTU = Prom All Over Again?

"Mary from Louisiana asked Olympia from Maine because they are BFFs, but had a backup in Bob from Tennessee in case she was rebuffed. Kirsten from New York went the Sadie Hawkins route and asked John from South Dakota, and thus the deal between two members of the Senate with seriously good hair was sealed."
In the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, there have been calls from both Democrats and Republicans for more civility and less partisanship. On Tuesday night, members of Congress will put these calls into action by mixing up their seating arrangements for the State of the Union. Instead of sitting in their usual spots, Senators and Representatives have been pairing up with "dates" from the other side of the aisle. Schumer (D-NY) will be sitting next to Coburn (R-OK), and Gillibrand's (D-NY) SOTU date will be John Thune (R-SD). These new seating charts seem largely symbolic, and not really a sign of increased bipartisanship. But on Tuesday it will be interesting to see how this effects the normally orchestrated (and kind of annoying) applause from the audience.


Seen on the street near Dupont

Anyone recognize this person?

Celtics run up against a Wall

50 Most Beautiful People Who Work on the Hill

A bunch of us were looking at the "Fifty Most Beautiful People who Work on the Hill"  last night. I think that I have seen a couple of  them around my building! I definitely told Nichelle Williams that I liked her sweater in the elevator. I have now been to every floor of the Longworth House Office Building (pictured to the left) as I spent an hour wandering around lost on Thursday. To be fair, everything looks exactly the same and the building is HUGE. By the time I finally found the room I was looking for my feet were in so much pain from my heels! Hopefully I don't go on anymore adventures around my building and I get to meet more beautiful people! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Anna's response to Nat's post!

"Intelligence, academic performance, and prestigious schools don’t correlate well with fulfillment, or even with outstanding accomplishment. The traits that do make a difference are poorly understood, and can’t be taught in a classroom, no matter what the tuition: the ability to understand and inspire people; to read situations and discern the underlying patterns; to build trusting relationships; to recognize and correct one’s shortcomings; to imagine alternate futures..."
The quote is from the article, "Social Animal: What the Science of Human Nature Can Teach Us," by David Brooks. While Amy Chua, the author of the article Nat has posted, argues that a strict parenting model instills "qualities that lead to highest achievement," Brooks believes that success and happiness also come from an array of social interactions mentioned above. The piece we read by Jeffrey Pfeffer similarly mentioned social interaction as being important for success, specifically power i.e. "use the personal touch" and "make important relationships work- no matter what." Studying all day and all night [with no play dates or sleepovers] may produce the best engineer or scientist, but it will not necessarily produce the best entrepreneur. Technical proficiencies are certainly ingredients to success, influence and power, but Brooks suggests that alone they are not sufficient. Now that we are away from Hamilton for the semester and all participating in internships, I think we should all focus on developing these skills and traits.

On a fun note and also from the Brooks article-

"Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income."
I joined a gym earlier in the week, and this morning I took my first workout class, called Definitions. I plan on taking this class every Saturday. Taking the same class with the same people every week is fun and you meet people you would never meet otherwise!

Trader Joes

Trader Joes! This afternoon, Anna, Nat, and I went to Trader Joes to get some groceries from the coming week. Located in Foggy Bottom right near GWU, it was a pretty short walk from Dupont Circle. Because most of the products at TJs are Trader Joes brand and not from other companies, their prices are very affordable. The produce is fresh and the pre-made frozen meals are delicious. My favorites from Trader Joes are the Mediterranean Hummus and the cottage cheese. YUM! We all got a week's worth of groceries for around $50. The line was a bit long, but it moved quickly and we got 5 cents off of our receipt because we brought our own bags. Unfortunately we walked in the wrong direction on Pennsylvania to get to the metro station so we ventured a few blocks into Old Georgetown. It was cute, but way too cold to make 6-block mistakes so we quickly turned around and went the right way. The metro was a little slow due to track construction at Rosslyn so it took a little while to get back. Now our fridge is loaded up with good food to begin our second work week. Megan and Julia were entering Trader Joes as we were leaving and came back shortly after us -- Megan bought a pound of chocolate! I am looking forward frequenting TJs on a weekly basis though I heard it's best to stay away on Sunday and Monday evenings when many GWU students are getting their weekly groceries. The address of the one and only Trader Joes in the District is:

1101 25th St NW
Washington, DC 20037

picture from:

Olbermann OUT!

The stormy relationship between Keith Olbermann and NBC executives has finally come to its natural conclusion, with Olbermann abruptly announcing on air last night that that episode of 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' would be his last. Olbermann, who rose to stardom during the Bush years as the loudest cable news voice on the left, represented a natural foil to Fox News hosts such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, and exemplified MSNBC's own push to the left in reaction to Fox's cornering of the conservative cable news market. Depending on who you talk to, he is either an arrogant jackass, a principled hero of the left, or maybe just that guy who used to be a Sportscenter anchor.

While Olbermann's ratings never rose to challenge those of the more popular conservative commentators at Fox, ratings-wise he was MSNBC's heavyweight in a stable of liberal commentators that is now left with the wonky and weird Rachel Maddow, blowhard-in-chief Chris Matthews, and neophytes Lawrence O'Donnell (who will take Olbermann's 8 pm slot) and Ed Schultz.

Olbermann, who last year was briefly suspended for making political contributions to 3 Democratic Congressional candidates (including Gabrielle Giffords), clashed repeatedly with the higher-ups at NBC, and their relationship apparently became irreparable after the suspension fiasco (where Olbermann was suspended but reinstated in a whirlwind 48 hours).

For MSNBC, they lose a reliable ratings booster, but can at least breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they will no longer have to go through daily power struggles with an egomaniac of Olbermann's level. It also accelerates the process of lifting Lawrence O'Donnell's national profile.

The next step for Olbermann seems less certain. There isn't much money in left wing talk radio, and a Fox News talk show is certainly out of the question. He could end up landing with CNN, whose insistence on political neutrality in the era of the louder voices at MSNBC and Fox News has left them playing catch-up in the ratings race.

Retail Politics

Half-term Governor Sarah Palin has spent the last two years creating a brand and selling it to Americans. But if she's interested in becoming America's 45th president, has she neglected the one place where retail politics is the only kind of politics that matters?

50th Anniversary R.F.K. Celebration

John and I were invited by the Department of Justice to attend the 50th Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's swearing in. The ceremony took place in the great hall of the R.F.K. Main Justice building. There were a lot of very interesting and powerful people at the ceremony, including many members of the Kennedy family. After the ceremony, John and I were walking down a flight of stairs and when we turned a corner, a burly Secret Service guard told us to stand back against the wall. A few feet behind him stood Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General. Mr. Holder was very friendly and shook our hands and asked us about our internships. He jokingly accused us of not working hard enough! It was very cool and somewhat intimidating experience

One of the ongoing healthcare/pharmaceutical cases I will be working on this semester

U.S. v. Laura Stevens is fairly emblematic of the healthcare cases that the Office of Consumer Litigation works with. Laura Stevens was an attorney for a pharmaceutical company that was accused of promoting "off label" uses for the drug. An "off label" use is when a company markets a drug for a purpose other then what the FDA had approved it for. For example, if Tylenol started to claim that their product could be used to lower cholesterol that would be an "off label" violation. Laura Stevens' trial does not deal specifically with "off label" marketing, rather Stevens is on trial for allegedly lying to the FDA about the Pharmaceutical Company's use of "off label" marketing and obstruction of justice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Climate of Armageddonism

Noam Chomsky suggests that the 2010 election is "the death knell for the human species."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Intern Participant Observation Seminar

A sumptuous repast of Indian food before discussions about strategies for successful internships and Democracy by Henry Adams.

Are Dems Facing Further Realignment in 2012 via the Senate?

Blue signifies a Democratic incumbent up for reelection in 2012, red a Republican candidate, and green an Independent.

"Farm Belt and Southern voters who prefer a Republican president but have often backed moderate Democrats for Congress seem increasingly inclined to vote GOP in all federal races."

Protest near Calvert Woodley

More happy Wizards fans

AlHam Birthday at Bar Louie

Ryan Karerat, Katherine Still, Patrick Landers, and Nat Duncan chat with Hamilton (and DC Program) alum Sara Feurstein.

AlHam Birthday at Bar Louie

Dylan Insenberg and John Whitney chat with Trustee George Baker.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Chinese Mother

[Click on title for article]

An interesting follow-up to our discussion today. One problem I have with her argument--and there are many--is the segment of the Chinese population she references: Sino-American immigrants. These people, I would imagine, are some of the most ambitious in China. They would likely expect the same of their children. To be sure, there are many millions in China who would fail Chua's standards. What she calls the "Chinese mother" must therefore be amended to something like the "ambitious Chinese mother who moved to America because of her ambition and expects the same ambition of her kids." There were plenty of white American kids whom I went to school with with equally pushy parents. They will make equally good doctors. And I can say as a matter of fact that they did not think of themselves as Chinese.

My circumstantial evidence for the day is a scene I witnessed walking back from the metro. A member of the Chinese "delegation," 5 or 6 years in age, was running around a patch of freshly poured pavement that was surrounded in yellow tape. The parents paid no attention and nearly walked away without their child. Hardly attentive parenting, by my estimation. This example is less than conclusive, but I figured it was relevant on several fronts.

The Etiology of Palin Derangement Syndrome

Day at the Newseum

DC students pose with J. Edgar Hoover at G-Men and Journalists Exhibition at Newseum. Busy day-- morning seminar on concept of power, casual lunch at Open City, and Newseum. Still to come: AlHam Birthday Party at Bar Louie.

Monday, January 17, 2011

DC Group Takes in a Wizards Game

Wizards 108-Jazz 101. Free Chipotle burritos for all!

Saturday, January 15, 2011