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!


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