Sunday, March 25, 2012

Slow your Roll

As opposed to last week, I don't have entirely too much to talk about. It figures that like a week after a busy one, it is very slow. A lot of the office was out on conferences and meetings. Also, I am not sure what happened but TWC wireless is horrible!!! #firstworldproblems

On Monday, TWC took us to USAID for an information session. I never new how big and new the Ronald Regan building is. It is light years ahead of the state department in terms of being up-to-date!

Tuesday was the big day - the meeting of International Postal Policy and Delivery Services. I've been working on it for a while so it was nice to see the fruits of my labor! While the policy was over my head, I did meet a Dickinson alum who I will be getting coffee with! Networking is the name of the game.

I did get to see some high-profile people this week as well! Andrea Mitchell came to the State Department and spoke about women (it is Women's History Month) and her career as a women in a male dominated industry (at the time). She also talked about recent controversies as when she was interviewing a Santorum backer and he said birth control was something like "putting an aspirin between your knees". I forgot this was the 1950s. She is a very strong and incredible woman, not to mention I love MSNBC!

Sorry for the size, the internet is horrible. Andrea Mitchell!

I also went to the Hudson Institute on Thrusday to see Indian Ambassador to the United States H.E. Nirupama Rao give a presentation! She didn't give a lot of specific about Indian policy but here's what I took away from it: India is pursuing a policy sort of a hybrid to Turkey and China. On one hand they are pursing an aggressive neighborhood policy like Turkey, but want to portray themselves as a quiet-but-rising global power like China. Pretty interesting. However the moderator from the Hudson Institute must have said "um" like 100 times; kind of embarrassing in front of a high-level ambassador.

That's it for my week. This Tuesday I have a dinner with a Dickinson trustee, and eventually a dinner with my scholarship donor! I have 5 more weeks; crazy. But it's been an amazing experience for myself and my future so far.

To infinity and beyond.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finding Solutions, not Problems

So I promised I would expand on what I meant by finding solutions this week, and I will. I'll just give a brief overview to a very busy week.

In terms of work, this week has had to be the busiest one yet. The other intern was out for spring break, so I had to juggle a few projects at once; they all got completed in their allotted time. My projects ranged from the UPU, Rio +20, IAEA, CCPCJ, and drafting diplomatic notes!

On Tuesday I went to a senate hearing on securing nuclear materials; Sen. Akaka (D-HI) presided and it was interesting to hear testimonies from DoS, DoE, and DoD. I also drafted two diplomatic notes and have been preparing for the Advisory Committee on International Postal Policy on Tuesday (Woooooo! Joking).

On Wednesday Dickinson hosted an event with P.J. Crowley and I got to network a bit. This week, I have been doing informational interviews with non-proliferation officers; it has been great to see how they got to their position as well as networking for the future. I am going to continue to do informational interviews especially with US-UN officials at state and many others.

The TWC program manager came to state for an on-site inspection (part of the program) and she received very positive feedback on my work. I explained to her my reservations with TWC and she agreed with some of them.

And it has been absolutely stunning weather in DC this week. No day was below 70 and there were a few days in the 80s.

 Now onto the second part of this post. I realize I may hit on touchy subjects, but these are my opinions and you can disagree with them, just act like an adult.

As I touched on last week, I said our leaders talk about problems, not solutions. So let me give an example by talking about the abortion issue. Its contentious, but what we have seen from congress and numerous states are laws which shut down legal abortion clinics, or ironically insert more government mandates (which the GOP does with Virginia's ultrasound bill, hypocrites much?). In my view, I 100% support the woman's right to choose. However, I think the pro-choice and pro-life labels are false. I would like to to think that no woman would want to have an abortion. The woman who do choose to have the procedure done never forget it. It's a big decision. I come from the view that everyone is pro-life, and this entire country would like to see the least abortions possible per year. I haven't met one person, one woman, or one man, that just loves to see an abortion. I challenge anyone who disagrees with me to find one. Seriously.

Now, the question for our leaders should be: How do we make policy which decreases the amount of abortion procedures per year? This is sensible, isn't it? Now you're talking about solutions, not the issue itself. But solutions should address a deeper question, why do women choose to undergo abortions in the first place? And once we've pinpointed why, how to do you try and solve it?

Here's a few possible solutions: greater funding for school programs which teach about being safe, greater funding for pre and post-natal programs which support low-income or single mothers. Let's be honest, there is a real divide between sex education and abortions between the different income classes in this country.  Some abortions happen because of unwanted pregnancies, and the lack of responsibility to use protection among partners. Other reasons are societal and so on. If the government provided grants for local programs which help women care for their children, particularly in low-income areas, then maybe the mother may have hope her child will grow to have a successful life. These are real issues and must be tackled by real solutions, this is how progress is made.

Lets talk another issue - food security. Now judging by our supermarkets, food security doesn't really seem like an issue, I am just securitizing something. But I'm really not. According to many stories, including Foreign Policy magazine its an impending global crisis. Currently we have and use a lot of genetically modified food (GMFs) (shout out Erin Carroll). Which is why we have so much. My opinion about GMFs?

While it lets us mass produce food, long-term its probably not in our best interest to keep GMF production up. Government should take the lead in encouraging organically grown (or non-GMF grown) food. Unfortunately, profit and ease often triumph smart policy in government. I also don't think there can ever be too much food regulation, Obama recently got new regulations passed in 2010.

However GMFs, as you mention, can have a significant affect on ending world hunger. There are many spectacular NGOs which do great work off food and financial donations to give people basic meals. While GMFs are harmful in the long run, there should be more exportation to places that need it most, or at least some policy which addresses this global problem. With over 7 billion people on this planet, I don't think it would be possible to feed them all without some GMF material, but then again, we don't feed everyone ether. Finding GMF to grow in hunger stricken areas would probably be a good step to take, if it hasn't already. There are signs of an impending food crisis happening in different sections of the world. As globalization continues, food security will keep becoming a paramount national and international security issue.

Yes I am a Democrat, but I am a strong believer in individual responsibility. My view as a Democrat is that government has the ability to remove barriers imposed by societal and economic conditions so everyone can be an an equal-er playing field to compete. Government has the role of helping the individual achieve what they want, not giving stifling human potential and excellence. Who says the next President, Albert Eisenstein, or next innovator can't be living in poverty right now, never able to become who he/she wants because of economic and societal barriers. This is the role I feel our government should play, enabling others to have the potential to live more amply. It's an ideal, but certainly not unrealistic.

That's all I got for today, I've thought about these in depth a little :p. Of course there are plenty more, I'll sprinkle them through the coming weeks. Wouldn't it be nice if we had policies that solved problems, instead of just debating them?

I know so.


P.S. Congrats Shannon on your amazing internship this summer! :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rally the Troops

If you've been in DC at any point, DC United went on an impressive public relations campaign to get people to their home opener. It worked. But I'll come back to this.

What I've noticed with my internship is that work ebbs and flows a lot. This week has been mixed, and there was definitely some fluctuations in the amount of work I had/have to do.

On monday I went to another TWC programming event. On the way to the event, I met a campaign manager I used to work for on the street. Totally by chance too. I'll hopefully be getting a meal with him soon.

 The programming was pretty poorly planned with kids having to sit on the floor. The topic was Fair Trade, but the expert that was brought in did not know how to communicate or give a presentation. This wasn't just me, a number of kids said this. In addition, some kids were asking legitimate, not "gotcha" questions, and the guy totally avoided them. The questions were about if fair trade seemingly costs more to provide (the guy said it doesn't, but then why does fair trade items cost more? Never answered that ether), how do developed countries engage in fair trade policies without busting the consumer's wallet? Also how to companies make profit if their goods are priced so much due to fair trade that no one buys their stuff? If anyone can help me answer this, I would really like to know.

On Tuesday I had another TWC programming event, but I am not going to go into it, I have too much positive energy in me right now. :)

On Wednesday I had my meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of my bureau! She is a very intelligent and kind woman. I got to have a mock interview with her, and she also helped me by pointing out some potential State Department programs to apply for post-undergraduate. She has also offered to help connect me with specialists in the areas of international relations I am interested in. So I'll be having some meetings with non-proliferation and multilateral gurus in the next few weeks!!

My family also came in the middle of the week. They went around DC and took me out for some delicious dinners. Love ya mom.

Unexpectedly on Thursday I asked to help escort the UN Office of Drugs and Crime's (UNODC)  Terrorism Prevention Branch's (TPB)  new chief, Ms. Requena Huertas!! I sat in on a meeting between her and State Department officials - it was highly productive and extremely interesting.

Finally, Friday was a whirlwind day of meetings. The other intern and I went to a U.S. meeting about an Asian country (sorry, I just worry about the sensitivity of things), a brown-bag lunch about life in North Korea, and another meeting at USPS HQ. The North Korea lunch was sooo interesting. The officer giving the picture presentation was a U.S. inspector sent to see if the North Koreans needed food aid, and he took a ton of pictures. Case-in-point, North Koreans don't live a glamorous lifestyle, but they do have a society that's not in ruins. The Hermit Kingdom is not as worse off as we may think, though there are a lot of malnutritioned kids. At USPS, the other intern and I were given super hero stamps, star war stamps, and a Mr. Zip bobble head!! Its very cool, don't knock it. That being said, I have a ton of work to do next week.

This weekend Jordan Reed '09 came to visit and we saw alums on friday, which was pretty fun.

Now let me get back to DC United. They've been flooding the city with ads like this on bus stops and newspapers:

Phrases like "Rally the Troops" and "Join Olsens Army" were everywhere. Jordan, Josh Hicks, and I went to the game last night! We bought DC United scarfs and I also bought a pin that said "Olsens Army" on it. It's pretty sick.The game was a ton of fun between tailgating before and the game itself. DC United didn't play very well, and ended up losing to Sporting Kansas City in the added time at the end. However, it was great to spend time with my friends at my first professional soccer game.

Awesome seats


Just because I've made these post just about my week, doesn't mean I haven't been following the clown show you call this election year or international politics. For anyone who is unaware, I am a proud Democrat, and I really haven't been embarrassed more for my country than these Republicans who are running for the nomination. The stuff they have said in debates and elsewhere since the summer is absolutely appalling (except for Huntsman). If you haven't seen the Islamophobic nature of last summer, disgraceful rhetoric, an audience booing a gay solider, people clapping for the death penalty, absolute misunderstanding of how the world works, or just talk of going back to the same policies of which got us into this economic mess in the first place I suggest you do some research. Make an opinion on your own, through credible sources (not everything posted online is unbiased and true, this seems so simple but people believe anything.)

 What we need in this country are American solutions. Too often, our "leaders" are mired down in debate the problem, but do not offer any solution to fix it. I am going to offer some of my thoughts on this and 2012 next week.

Get pumped.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nothing in My Way

First off - Shannon, I hope you feel better soon! :)

Its been quite a week, and I mean that in a good way.

As usual, I worked a half-day on Monday then went back to TWC for programming. Norman Y. Mineta, former congressman from California and Secretary of Transportation, came to speak. He spoke about his political beginnings, his early childhood, and some decisions as Secretary. He was a funny guy too, it was absolutely a pleasure being able to listen to him. And keep in mind, he was a Democrat working for G.W. Bush. He puts country before party, and unfortunately we don't see that from politicians these days. Now politicians debate about the problems, and not the solutions.

Former Secretary Norman Mineta

Nothing much to report on Tuesday, it was a slow week in the office. I did go and sign up for the State Dept library. They have an incredible amount of resources, and going into the stacks is a bit creepy. The stacks are in small corridors closed off from the rest of the hallways.

On Wednesday I went to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the subcommittee on Maritime Transportation in the Rayburn building to attend a hearing about the COSTA Concordia (the cruise ship that sank in Italy). We were there to see if any new proposals were going to be brought to the IMO (International Maritime Organization) in light of the accident. The committee was extremely substantive and bipartisan, and a Vice-Admiral of the Coast Guard answered questions. Essentially, the captain and the crew did just about EVERYTHING wrong that they could have. They did not do practice drills, they told people to go back to their cabins, and no one knew where the life vests were. Thankfully, the Italian coast guard had their act together. Additionally, it was noted that the American cruise industry has numerous inspections and is relatively safe. A panel of survivors of the Concordia cruise told of a harrowing story of their experiences and reaffirmed that during a separate American cruise, they were properly shown were to go, and what to do in case of an emergency.

The House Committee

It was very cool to see come congressmen in person after reading about them constantly. Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ) was chair of the subcommittee, Rep. Larsen (D-WA) was ranking member, Chairman (of the bigger committee) Rep. Mica (R-FL), and Rep. Cummings (D-MD) were there. Very, very cool. The Republicans and Democrats were telling jokes to each other at breaks, you don't often hear about this in the papers. Coming back from the hearing, it was like a monsoon outside. My umbrella flipped inside-out because of the wind...

I got some research done on Thursday - I am getting a good footing on my paper. There are a few set backs in terms of finding information for specific organizations, but I am feeling confident of the way the paper is going to form up. We also got a new intern on our office - she is very cool.

On Friday, I got to go into work late because I attended a policy discussion on the challenges of rouge states (Iran and North Korea) on the non-proliferation agenda at the Brookings Institution. The President of Brookings, as well as senior fellows and President of the MacArthur Foundation, spoke about the issues. While they were pretty grim on a peaceful outcome with Iran, they were cautiously optimistic about North Korea. On Iran, they said that deterrence will not work because once they finally acquire nuclear potential, other states in the region will want them too - causing a domino effect. The best outcome, they said, was that they allow full clearance to constant IAEA inspection so that Iran complies with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and both sides ease back. However, they noted that military options are the only sure-fire way to know that Iran cannot continue to develop weapons.

Pretty grim.

For North Korea, they were optimistic about the recent deal to stop activities at their power plant in exchange for food. They noted that they need to see action before they get any food. However, the speakers explained that this could all be strategic diplomacy - South Korea has presidential elections this year and North Korea may want a friendlier president to win.

The biggest threat they argued, and I agree, is the threat of unauthorized nuclear transfer - North Korea already did it with Syria (before Israel took it out). The threat of transfer of nuclear technology or warheads to other states or non-state actors would be devastating to national security. Nuclear weapons, fission materials, or other technology is not something to pass around.

Full house at Brookings

This next week is going to be busy. A desk officer for the UPU is back from his conference, other meetings are held this week, Sec. Clinton and Mrs. Obama are speaking at State on Thursday for Woman's Day, my family is coming, and my girlfriend are coming to visit! On top of that, I am going to the DC United home opener on Saturday with my friend from school and an alum, and potentially seeing more alums on Friday!

I also have my long awaited meeting with DAS (Deputy Assistant Secretary) Nerissa Cook on Wednesday!

Until next week!