Sunday, January 18, 2009

WaPo: National Day of Service

National Day of Service. WaPo Editorial
The president-elect's call to action
The Washington Post, Monday, January 19, 2009; page A18

TODAY, THE nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose tireless quest for equality and justice helped to make possible tomorrow's historic inauguration of the first African American as president of the United States. Today's holiday is meant to be a day of national service, a day when a grateful nation emulates Dr. King's sacrifice and service to others so that they may know a better life. It is in that spirit that President-elect Barack Obama has called on Americans to give back by tapping the enthusiasm of the millions who flocked to his candidacy and propelled him to the White House.

"We already have several million people already signed up through thousands of sites that were organized through our Web site," Mr. Obama told us during a visit Thursday, which would have been Dr. King's 80th birthday. "We provide them with a package of resources, and they run with it." Some of the activities taking place across the United States include making care packages for troops serving overseas, collecting food for and serving meals to the homeless, cleaning neighborhoods, parks and waterways, and building affordable housing.

But the next president doesn't envision this call to service as a one-day event. He is intent on creating a culture of service. "Part of my message in every speech I hope that I give over the next four years is that government can't do everything and everyone has a role," Mr. Obama said.

The new administration is committed to expanding the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, the 16-year-old organization administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. It plans to create service organizations to get people to actively participate in finding solutions to the problems facing the country. There will be specific entities for those interested in energy independence, education, health-care reform and help for veterans. Mr. Obama has set a goal of 50 hours of community service per year for middle and high school students. To encourage 100 hours of service per year from college students, Mr. Obama proposes a $4,000 tax credit for their education. And he pledges to improve volunteer programs aimed at senior citizens.

Dr. King once said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." We encourage you to visit today to find a project that could use your greatness.

Obama’s FDA commissioner should avoid actions that make the drug development process more costly and inefficient

Tough Challenges at the FDA, by John E. Calfee
Obama’s FDA commissioner should avoid actions that make the drug development process more costly and inefficient.
The American, Jan 15, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama must nominate a new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The current commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach, will resign on January 20 when Obama takes office. The President-elect has already appointed an acting commissioner, Dr. Frank Torti, the FDA’s well-regarded deputy commissioner and chief scientist, who has been at the agency for less than a year. But finding a permanent commissioner is a different matter entirely. Filling the commissioner post has been agonizingly slow ever since the Health Omnibus Program Extension of 1988 made FDA commissioners subject to Senate confirmation. Individual senators can exercise a temporary veto and they sometimes pick fights over extremely narrow issues, such as moving a single drug from prescription to over-the-counter status. Having a confirmed commissioner at the helm has become the exception rather than the rule. In the 11 years and 11 months since David Kessler, the first Senate-confirmed commissioner, resigned in February 1997, the FDA has been presided over by acting commissioners more than half the time. The four interim periods without a confirmed commissioner averaged 18.5 months, and none was shorter than 15 months.

The FDA’s immense regulatory ambit is said to encompass one-fourth of the U.S. economy, but by far its greatest challenges lie in balancing the risks and benefits of both new and approved drugs and medical devices. This balancing act is deeply influenced by outside forces. Watchful critics in Congress, academia, and the practitioner community are quicker to spot something amiss with an FDA-approved product than they are to discern slowness or inefficiency in moving development and approval forward. This one-sided criticism, which in recent years has risen to the level of vitriol, is bound to push the FDA staff toward over-caution, i.e., toward a disproportionate emphasis on safety rather than, say, getting new drugs to market.

It is no surprise that critics have claimed that the FDA, having jumped or been pushed into bed with the pharmaceutical industry, has neglected drug safety. The critics’ evidence is primarily anecdotal, however. For that matter, the two leading controversies—whether the pain relievers Vioxx and Celebrex cause heart attacks, and whether certain antidepressants trigger suicidal thoughts in their youthful users—have been largely resolved without any real evidence of FDA neglect. In fact, there is strong evidence that when the FDA responded to critics by imposing stark warnings on antidepressants, the net effect was more suicides rather than fewer because the warnings deterred usage among seriously depressed younger patients. One can criticize the FDA for many things (I have offered more than my share of criticism), but the idea that FDA management ever decided to slight drug safety in any systematic manner has no foundation in either common sense or the public record.

The next FDA commissioner, acting or permanent, must be a virtuoso balancer, and must exercise that skill on a much broader front than most people appreciate. The public tends to focus on the FDA’s yea-or-nay decisions on new drugs or new warnings. But that is only a small part of the agency’s portfolio. Far more important in the long run are the thousands of decisions made every year about essential details in murky areas such as product development and manufacturing.

In overseeing clinical trials of new drugs, for example, FDA staff have been debating how strongly to rely on so-called surrogate markers—such as blood glucose levels for diabetes, LDL cholesterol levels for heart disease, and tumor size for cancer—instead of “clinical” markers such as limb amputations, heart attacks, and mortality. The agency has also been mulling whether to require that new drugs be not only safe and effective (the traditional standard), but also superior—or at least “non-inferior”—to the drugs with which they will compete. This seemingly simple topic raises daunting scientific and statistical questions on which leading experts have strongly disagreed. In the meantime, heated discussion has focused on the extent to which clinical trials should be designed to detect rare but serious side effects such as heart attacks or strokes. The FDA recently announced a compromise approach for the most-discussed category—diabetes drugs—without settling the controversy for good.

Meanwhile, there are questions about what kind of testing to require for thousands of annual modifications and improvements in medical devices. Another especially contentious issue is whether to exercise more control over how physicians prescribe drugs and devices, notwithstanding the FDA’s longstanding policy of not regulating the practice of medicine. FDA staff and outsiders are also exploring the tricky science of testing “advanced therapies” such as stem cells and autologous therapeutic vaccines. Simply establishing approval standards for manufacturing methods is difficult, not to mention requirements for testing and approval.

The great danger now is that Obama will appoint a permanent commissioner devoted to the politically attractive gambit of pursuing an agenda dominated by a few high-profile issues. Anyone fixated on elevating the prominence of drug safety, for example, is bound to distort decisions even further from reasonable tradeoffs involving drug development and related activities including marketing. The same danger exists for radical changes in FDA approval standards such as downgrading surrogate markers, requiring superiority for new drugs, or forcing dramatically advanced therapies to conform to conventional testing standards. Those changes alone would add years of testing for drugs now in the clinical phase and, worse, would feed back into drug development itself by greatly increasing the expense and length of clinical trials. (If the same principles had been applied in the past, immensely valuable drugs would have been greatly delayed or never brought to market at all.)

In the ratchet-up world of health and safety regulation, any movement in these directions would be extremely hard to reverse. Yet the FDA is already moving to reduce the role of surrogate markers and to implement a superiority requirement for some drug classes (for certain antipsychotics, for example). Let us hope that the next FDA commissioner remembers that from the standpoint of patients, too much safety can be just as harmful as too little.

John E. Calfee is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Long-Range Transport of Anthropogenically and Naturally Produced Particulate Matter in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic

Long-Range Transport of Anthropogenically and Naturally Produced Particulate Matter in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic: Current State of Knowledge by Kallos et al. 2007. By Roger Pielke Sr. @ 7:00 am
Climate Science, Jan 16, 2009

There is a valuable research paper that documents the important role of aerosols on weather and climate, with an emphasis on their transport across long distances. The paper, by an outstanding scientist at the University of Athens, is

Kallos, G., M. Astitha, P. Katsafados, and C. Spyrou, 2007: Long-Range Transport of Anthropogenically and Naturally Produced Particulate Matter in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic: Current State of Knowledge. J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 46, 1230–1251.

The abstract reads

“During the past 20 years, organized experimental campaigns as well as continuous development and implementation of air-pollution modeling have led to significant gains in the understanding of the paths and scales of pollutant transport and transformation in the greater Mediterranean region (GMR). The work presented in this paper has two major objectives: 1) to summarize the existing knowledge on the transport paths of particulate matter (PM) in the GMR and 2) to illustrate some new findings related to the transport and transformation properties of PM in the GMR. Findings from previous studies indicate that anthropogenically produced air pollutants from European sources can be transported over long distances, reaching Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, and North America. The PM of natural origin, like Saharan dust, can be transported toward the Atlantic Ocean and North America mostly during the warm period of the year. Recent model simulations and studies in the area indicate that specific long-range transport patterns of aerosols, such as the transport from Asia and the Indian Ocean, central Africa, or America, have negligible or at best limited contribution to air-quality degradation in the GMR when compared with the other sources. Also, new findings from this work suggest that the imposed European Union limits on PM cannot be applicable for southern Europe unless the origin (natural or anthropogenic) of the PM is taken into account. The impacts of high PM levels in the GMR are not limited only to air quality, but also include serious implications for the water budget and the regional climate. These are issues that require extensive investigation because the processes involved are complex, and further model development is needed to include the relevant physicochemical processes properly.”

Among the conclusions is the finding that

“Climate and air-quality feedbacks are not well understood, and hence future work requires specialized surface and upper-air measurements to explore the validity validity of the various model elements.”

It should be obvious, that skillful multi-decadal climate predictions cannot be made, despite claims by the IPCC and CCSP assessments that this is possible.

The Importance of India

The Importance of India, by Duncan Currie
Bush deserves credit for boosting relations with New Delhi
The Weekly Standard, Jan 15, 2009

BILL EMMOTT, a former editor of the Economist magazine, has written that George W. Bush's "bold initiative" to strengthen U.S. relations with India "may eventually be judged by historians as a move of great strategic importance and imagination." It "may turn out to be the most significant foreign policy achievement of the Bush administration," says historian Sugata Bose, an India expert at Harvard. Bilateral ties had improved toward the end of the Clinton administration, thanks largely to the efforts of Strobe Talbott, then serving as deputy secretary of state, and Jaswant Singh, then serving as Indian foreign minister. But "the big jump in relations came under President Bush," says Columbia economist Arvind Panagariya, author of the 2008 book India: The Emerging Giant.

By far the most controversial element of Bush's India policy was the U.S.-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, which Congress approved this past fall. It was announced in 2005 but then delayed for years by opposition from Democrats in Washington, left-wing parties in New Delhi, and an Indian nuclear establishment that was skeptical of U.S. intentions. "The determination of the White House was very important," says Panagariya, who believes the Bush administration played a "crucial" role in convincing the Indian government to fight for the deal.

Critics of the nuclear pact "really exaggerated the risks to the non-proliferation regime," says Stephen Cohen, an India expert at the Brookings Institution. As part of the accord, India has accepted new international safeguards on its nuclear program. In turn, the United States has lifted a longstanding ban on U.S.-India civilian nuclear trade. Cohen predicts that the deal will help New Delhi pursue a more sensible arms control policy.

Beyond the nuclear pact, the United States and India have also upgraded their broader strategic cooperation. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, they launched a joint relief mission with Japan and Australia. In June 2005, they signed a new defense framework which enhanced bilateral military ties and stated that "the United States and India agree on the vital importance of political and economic freedom, democratic institutions, the rule of law, security, and opportunity around the world. The leaders of our two countries are building a U.S.-India strategic partnership in pursuit of these principles and interests." In September 2007, India hosted and participated in multilateral naval exercises that included ships from the United States, Japan, Australia, and Singapore.

To appreciate where U.S.-India relations are today, recall how frosty they were during much of the latter half of the 20th century. The first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who served from 1947 to 1964, was an avowed socialist and champion of the Non-Aligned Movement. Throughout the Cold War, Indian scholar Ramachandra Guha writes in his 2007 book, India After Gandhi, the United States "tilted markedly toward" Pakistan while India "tilted somewhat toward" the Soviet Union. (During the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Richard Nixon groused to Henry Kissinger that "the Indians are no goddamn good.") It was not until the late 1990s, notes Guha, "that the United States moved toward a position of equidistance between India and Pakistan."

Today, the U.S.-India partnership seems to make perfect strategic sense: Both countries are English-speaking democracies; both are wary of a rising China; both are fighting against Islamic terrorism; and both have an interest in promoting bilateral economic cooperation. India wants to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and it needs America's support. Economic links between the two countries are now "so strong that they stabilize the overall relationship," says Cohen.

Then there is the cultural dimension of the relationship. Panagariya points out that most people in India have a relative, friend, or neighbor who is a member of the Indian diaspora. "They see so many Indians being successful in the U.S.," he says. India is a youthful country, and its younger generation has no serious connection to the anti-Americanism of the Cold War era. In a 2008 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, 66 percent of Indians expressed a favorable view of the United States.

To be sure, the U.S. and Indian governments will not always be in harmony. Bose says that India probably took a more "strident" position than necessary in the Doha round of global trade talks, which collapsed in late July after a fierce debate over agricultural policy. He adds that Indian officials are worried about Barack Obama's commitment to free trade, given his repeated criticism of "companies that ship jobs overseas." American officials, meanwhile, are concerned about India's relatively warm relations with Iran. But Panagariya says the Iran issue will not prove a major hindrance to U.S.-India collaboration. After all, India is very friendly with Israel. "You don't hear a peep out of the Israelis about India's Iran policy," says Cohen.

As for Pakistan, it has always bedeviled U.S.-India relations. Now the war in Afghanistan is complicating things even more. In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, "India and the United States are likely to come closer," says Bose, provided the Americans use their leverage with Pakistan and pressure Islamabad to reform its army, clean up its intelligence services, and clamp down on militant groups. Despite all the saber-rattling, Bose expects that New Delhi will stay focused on its international ambitions and act prudently.

"India wants to play a role on the global stage," he says. Right now, however, with a national election due by May, the South Asian giant is experiencing severe economic turmoil. The worldwide downturn has taken a harsh toll on India and disrupted its lengthy run of 9 percent annual GDP growth. World Bank economist Sadiq Ahmed reckons that the Indian growth rate will dip below 7 percent in the 2008-2009 fiscal year and below 6 percent in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. "Job losses are going to be enormous due to the global slowdown," Indian commerce ministry spokesman Rajiv Jain recently told Bloomberg News. Meanwhile, the Indian financial industry has been rocked by news of a massive fraud scandal at outsourcing giant Satyam.

Painful as they are, India's economic troubles should not be overblown. "It's not a disaster scenario by any means," says Ahmed, who thinks that Indian policymakers have thus far done "a very good job" in responding to the slump. He notes that inflation has fallen sharply, interest rates have returned to normal levels, and the domestic liquidity situation has stabilized. India is benefiting from its high savings rate. "We are not expecting a prolonged downturn," says Ahmed.

Whatever its current woes, India has remarkable potential. Its middle class is still dwarfed by that of China, but it will balloon over the next few decades. A May 2007 McKinsey Global Institute study estimated that between 2005 and 2025, average real household disposable income in India will nearly triple, the Indian middle class will swell from roughly 50 million people to around 583 million, and the country's consumer market will grow from the 12th largest in the world to the fifth largest.

Goldman Sachs reckons that India could have a larger economy than the United States by 2050. As Goldman economists Jim O'Neill and Tushar Poddar observed in a June 2008 paper, the United Nations has projected that India's population will increase by around 310 million between 2000 and 2020. "India will in effect create the equivalent of another U.S.," wrote O'Neill and Poddar, "and for those of working age between 2000 and 2020, India will create the equivalent of the combined working population of France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K. We estimate another 140 million people will migrate to Indian cities by 2020."

India's long-term progress is stunning. The 2007 McKinsey study pointed out that, "in effect, there are 431 million fewer poor people in India today than there would have been if poverty had remained at its 1985 rate." There is no question that "India's economic reforms, and the increased growth that has resulted, have been the most successful anti-poverty program in the country's history."

Long a bastion of socialism, India flirted with economic liberalization during the 1980s, under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, who served as prime minister from 1984 to 1989 (and was assassinated in 1991). But the reform process didn't begin for real until 1991, when India was facing an economic crisis. As Robyn Meredith of Forbes magazine writes in her 2007 book, The Elephant and the Dragon, some 110 million Indians "had been thrown into poverty in just the preceding two years," and "330 million people, or two of every five Indians, lived below the poverty line." Inflation had surged to 17 percent, and the country "was flat broke."

In response, the Indian finance minister, Manmohan Singh, embraced a bold agenda of deregulation, privatization, tariff reductions, and tax cuts. Singh devalued the rupee, removed obstacles to foreign investment, and expanded trade. "Early steps were also taken to open telecommunications and domestic civil aviation to the private sector," writes Panagariya. "These measures yielded the handsome growth rate of 7.1 percent between 1993-94 and 1996-97, and also placed the economy on a long-term growth trajectory of 6 percent."

The reform process stalled in the late 1990s but regained momentum during the third term of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which began in 1999. As Panagariya writes, "the Vajpayee government systematically moved to open the economy to foreign and domestic competition and to build the country's infrastructure." Singh's Congress Party took power in 2004 as the leading coalition member of the United Progressive Alliance, and Singh became prime minister. Economic reformers had high hopes for the government, especially given Singh's record as finance minister, but they have been disappointed, as the reform process has stagnated.

Moving forward, further economic reforms will be critical. The United Nations Population Fund says that India will eclipse China as the world's most populous country by 2050. Will India's population explosion produce a "demographic dividend," or a demographic disaster? "That's the million-dollar question," says Bose. Indeed, a rising population does not guarantee that India will fulfill its potential. It will need to create millions of new jobs and also ensure that its workers are properly equipped to do those jobs. In their recent paper, O'Neill and Poddar outlined ten steps that India must take "to achieve its 2050 potential." These include strengthening its education system, containing inflation, liberalizing its financial markets, boosting trade with its neighbors, and improving its infrastructure.

India's biggest weaknesses are education and infrastructure. As Emmott writes in his 2008 book, Rivals, "The country's large, young population will not be an economic advantage unless it can be educated to the standards required by manufacturers and service companies." The current Indian education system "is grossly inadequate for that task, and putting that right will be costly." Consider these numbers: "Only 28 percent of India's schools had electricity in 2005; only half had more than two teachers or two classrooms." India has a significantly lower literacy rate than countries such as China, Vietnam, and Malaysia, Emmott notes.

As for the infrastructure problem, it remains a huge drag on Indian economic growth. According to the World Bank, more than half of India's state highways are in "poor condition." In its latest survey of global competitiveness, the World Economic Forum found that Indian business executives consider "inadequate supply of infrastructure" to be "the most problematic factor for doing business" in their country. The next four "most problematic factors" were (in order) "inefficient government bureaucracy," "corruption," "restrictive labor regulations," and "tax regulations."

Though India has come a long way since the 1991 crisis, its business sector remains heavily shackled. The latest World Bank report on "the ease of doing business" around the world ranks India a lowly 122nd out of 181 economies. By comparison, China ranks 83rd. Meanwhile, the most recent Index of Economic Freedom, compiled by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, ranks India 123rd out of 179 economies, barely ahead of Rwanda.

"Indians joke that India is like a drunk walking home: it takes one step forward, then two steps sideways, but eventually makes it home," writes Meredith. "Indian reforms, hampered especially by local politics, tend to lurch ahead, then jolt to a stop, only to hurl forward again." Besides local politics, Indian reforms have also been hampered by persistent social tensions, ethnic conflicts, and domestic security threats. As Meredith observes, "The advances of the glittering New India mask stubborn problems, such as high child-mortality rates, violence against women, caste-based discrimination, and religious strife."

The 2008 Mumbai massacre offered a grisly reminder that India has long been plagued by Islamic terrorism. (In December 2001, jihadists attacked the Indian parliament building.) It has also spent several decades battling Maoist rebels known as "Naxalites." Then there is the longstanding dispute over Kashmir and plenty of other spats with India's nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan. Tensions with Islamabad have been high in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. Though many Indians wish they could just disregard Pakistan, that is not a viable option. "When you have a neighbor whose house is falling down, you simply can't ignore it," says Cohen.

Barack Obama will inherit a dangerous situation in Pakistan, but he will also inherit a U.S.-India partnership that is stronger than ever. Over the coming decades, as global power continues shifting to Asia, the importance of that partnership will only increase. Embracing India may indeed prove to be a significant part of President Bush's legacy. As Bose puts it, Bush elevated the relationship "to a completely new level."

Duncan Currie is managing editor of The American.

Expect a proliferation of new regulations that will reach into every area of American life and commerce

Obama’s Green Team, by Kenneth P. Green
We can expect a proliferation of new regulations that will reach into every area of American life and commerce.
The American, Friday, January 16, 2009

What do President-elect Barack Obama’s leadership picks tell us about the kinds of energy and environmental policies we can expect in the next four to eight years? On balance, they suggest we are in for a radical shift away from George W. Bush’s pro-market policies and back to the aggressive regulatory approach favored by the Clinton administration. Let’s take a look at Obama’s prospective appointees.

Lisa P. Jackson

Obama’s pick for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be the first African American to head the Agency since its creation in 1970. She will be the fourth female administrator of the EPA, which seems to be a trend: four of the last seven EPA chiefs have been women. Jackson’s choice may be the only bright spot among Obama’s energy and environmental nominees. While in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Jackson’s record was one of generally cooperating with industry and streamlining permitting processes, often angering green activists who opposed any activity that made it easier to build or expand polluting facilities. Her handling of New Jersey’s Superfund sites has also come in for criticism, and her confirmation hearings could be ugly. It’s possible that Jackson will be able to bring her business-friendly orientation to the EPA—but that depends on how much independence she is granted by Carol Browner, Obama’s eco-czar (more on her below).

Ken Salazar

At first blush, Democratic Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, who has been tapped for interior secretary, looks like a moderate. As with Jackson, some environmentalists have opposed his selection, citing his support for the confirmation of Bush’s first interior secretary, Gale Norton, and his ill-defined ties to resource extraction industries. Salazar has also comes under fire for several votes unpopular with the environmental movement, such as his 2005 vote against tightened CAFE standards; his 2006 vote to remove congressional barriers to oil exploration off Florida’s Gulf Coast; and his 2007 vote against legislation that would have required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects. Nevertheless, Salazar currently has a rating of 100 percent with the League of Conservation Voters, an extremist green outfit that has hailed him as an environmental hero for cleaving to their party line.

Steven Chu

The selection of Steven Chu as energy secretary is another ethnically historic pick: Chu will be the first Asian American to head the Department of Energy. He has impressive scientific credentials, sharing a Nobel prize for research on laser cooling and atom trapping. Chu currently serves as director of the Berkeley National Laboratory. Chu clearly has the right background for the job; but ideologically, he’s cut from the same cloth as the rest of the Obama cabinet. Chu is an ardent supporter of greenhouse gas (GHG) control regimes such as the Kyoto Protocol, and we can expect him to push President Obama to sign a Kyoto successor agreement.

Nancy Sutley

Obama’s choice of Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality continues the trend of diversity picks: Sutley will be the first openly lesbian woman to head up the CEQ. Sutley is deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles. She previously served as a regional administrator of the EPA when Carol Browner was administrator (under President Clinton). During her tenure as deputy mayor, Sutley has enacted two clean air initiatives. One of those initiatives involved switching the Department of Water and Power (known to those of us who grew up in Los Angeles as “Drip and Tingle”) over to wind and solar power. The other initiative was a program to replace 16,000 diesel trucks at the port of Los Angeles. In each case, Sutley gave little thought to the economic impact of environmental regulation. Such negligence has contributed to California’s economic crisis and its loss of recession-proof industries such as the aerospace sector, which was pushed out of the Golden State by rigid air pollution controls.

Jane Lubchenco

Obama has selected marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, another agency with a strong focus on climate change. Lubchenco will make that focus even stronger. She is a longtime crusader for strict regulation of GHG emissions. Lubchenco has served on the boards of the World Resources Institute, Environmental Defense, and other green NGOs. She believes that ocean acidification (a byproduct of GHG emissions) is the biggest threat to life in the oceans. Lubchenco is not content to simply promote her own views; she is also keen to stifle dissent, and was instrumental in getting Oregon’s state climatologist fired for his unorthodox views on global warming.

John Holdren

John Holdren’s designation as White House science adviser affirms that Obama will have a thoroughly climate-focused team. Holdren, a program director at Harvard University, is a climate change alarmist who has slandered skeptics as “dangerous” forces who “infest” the Internet and media. “We should really call them‘deniers’ rather than ‘skeptics,’ Holdren has said, “because they are giving the venerable tradition of skepticism a bad name.” Regardless of the fact that hundreds of qualified scientists are dubious about elements of the “climate crisis” school, Holdren simply dismisses their legitimacy. He was solicited by Scientific American magazine to criticize Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Holdren’s review was one of the most lopsided public assaults on critical thinking about the environment in recent memory.

Carol Browner

Carol Browner’s selection as “energy coordinator” (sometimes called energy czar) virtually guarantees that the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policies will be anything but moderate. Her two terms as EPA boss were marked by adversarialism, punitive enforcement actions, draconian tightening of environmental regulations, and the message that business is destructive of the environment and dishonest about the costs of environmental regulations. Browner’s capstone achievement, the tightening of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 1997, sparked legal battles that raged for nearly ten years and required resolution by the Supreme Court. Throughout the debate, Browner consistently denied that cost was any consideration in setting standards, despite findings by the Office of Management and Budget that the costs of the regulations would outweigh the benefits, and despite numerous studies showing that, on net, far more people would be harmed by the economic consequences of the new standards than would be helped by the incremental gains in air quality. As a result of this bruising battle, Browner made many enemies in both business and government.

When it comes to climate change, she is a disciple of Al Gore, for whom she worked from 1988 to 1991. Browner reportedly helped write much of Gore’s book Earth in the Balance, which called for a wrenching transformation of American society to make it “greener” and the elimination of the internal combustion engine in 25 years. Browner believes that “climate change is the greatest challenge ever faced,” and that the EPA is the agency to face it. Toward the end of her tenure as EPA chief, Browner gave the agency the authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant, despite the fact that such gases are barely mentioned in the Clean Air Act.

On balance, if Obama’s nominees remain true to their stated positions, it is likely that his administration will 1) try to implement severe GHG controls that will inflict major damage on an already-reeling economy, and 2) seek to restrict consumer choice through the imposition of new environmental policies. The cost of virtually everything is likely to rise, since energy is a fundamental input to production and the provision of goods and services. All told, we are about to witness an unprecedented proliferation of new regulations that will, as a recent EPA report admits, reach into every area of American life and commerce.

Kenneth P. Green is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

In the Huffington Post: Obama & the Peace Corps

An article by Laurence Leamer
Huffington Post, January 18, 2009 03:14 PM (EST)


Has President-elect Barack Obama [...] turned away from his most exalted ideals in an act of such spiritual malfeasance that it will condemn his administration?

Some observers cite the fact that the stimulus package contains money for AmeriCorps but nothing for the Peace Corps as evidence that the president-elect has turned his back on his pledge to double the size of Kennedy's most noble child. There is buzz among former Volunteers and others associated with the Peace Corps that the expanded future of the organization is in immediate and dramatic peril.

The Peace Corps $330 million budget is insufficient even to maintain the current level of 7,876 volunteers. In recent months some potential volunteers have been asked to defer their enlistments for up to a year. To expand dramatically another $80 to $100 million is needed, a pittance in terms of the impact such an escalation would have on America and the world.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal in 1964-66, an early supporter of Obama, a volunteer and a member of the steering committee in Palm Beach County, and I don't believe for a minute that he will back away from his historic pledge. He can't or he will be denying his essence. Obama will be the first president whose most formative life experience was service, working as a community organizer, and service/volunteering will be one of the essential themes of his presidency.

Obama will be our president, the leader we thought one of us might be, a leader going back to those ideals and taking them to new dramatic place in American life. "To restore America's standing, I will call on our greatest resource - our people," Obama says in the winter issue of Worldview Magazine. "We will double the size of the Peace Corps by its 50th anniversary in 2011. And, we'll reach out to other nations to engage their young people in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity. This will not be a call issued in one speech or on program. This will be an important and enduring commitment of my presidency."

As Harvard University political philosopher Michael Sandel told Thomas Friedman in his column the day after the historic election: "The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service -- in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama's campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again."

It is that "dormant civic idealism" resonating among millions of Americans that can change our country. In the Obama years service/volunteering may well become the crucial mark of social legitimacy without which we are not full citizens. I understand the profound linkage between the Peace Corps/volunteer experience and the Obama campaign.

Let me tell you the story of two women, one who was in my Peace Crops group, and one who volunteered with me in South Florida. Suzanne Cluett was a feisty, determined blonde from Seattle who in the Sixties trekked to remote areas of Nepal bringing medical advice to women. She worked in that same field after leaving the Peace Corps. She became the first employee of the nascent Gates Foundation. Suzanne worked with Bill Gates' father in her basement developing what has become the greatest foundation in the history of the world. Thanks to Suzanne, the Gates Foundation is imbued with the spirit of the Peace Corps.

Suzanne died of cancer in 2006. A group of us from Nepal IV built a school in the mountains of Nepal in her honor. Bill Gates donated a million dollars part of which went to build a maternity hospital high up in the Himalayas so for the first time Sherpa women can give birth in a hospital. But Suzanne real immortality rests in the Gates Foundation. Every time you read about or see its accomplishment, think that you are seeing the Peace Corps at work.

Maria Cole is a beautiful, fortyish African-American dentist. She had a practice in reconstructive dentistry in South Florida. She sold it because she wanted to do something different and that something different was volunteering for Obama. She flew up to New Hampshire and worked organizing Enfield. Then she went on to South Carolina. She wanted to go to Texas but got no response from the Obama staff in Chicago. So she and a friend took off on their own and set up shop in Eagle Lake where Obama won both the primary and the caucus. In South Florida during the general campaign Maria managed the northern part of Palm Beach County. The largely black Rivera Beach generally had about a twenty percent turn out; this time it was over eighty per cent, almost all for Obama.

Suzanne and Maria never met but they are sisters of the blood and spirit, partners in helping to build a great and noble movement. I am witness to the fact that as brilliant and historic a figure as Obama is, he is in some measure the vehicle for a movement far larger even than the presidency. The millions of people who volunteered discovered a spiritual affinity with each other and a cause and they has a momentum and energy that nothing can stop.

I volunteer once a week for the Lord's Place in West Palm Beach working with the homeless. It's a sacrament with me. I've talked about it to Jorge Quezeda, the Latino maintenance chief in my Palm Beach condominium. Jorge's a big Obama supporter too, and he got excited hearing me talk about the Lord's Place, and he's going to start volunteering too.

Something is happening everywhere in America. The dormant idealism is awakening. The size of the Peace Corps will double. Young Americans will go to Asia and Africa and Latin America not as soldiers but as missionary of a new faith, emissaries of the best in America. They'll go into the slums, and so will middle-aged folks and retired people, and we will change this country and this world.

We are ready, Mr. President, ready for you to lead us.

Can We Start Shooting the Geese Now?

Can We Start Shooting the Geese Now? By Greg Pollowitz

Here's a press release form New York City's website,, on a pilot program focusing on more environmentally friendly ways to control Canadian geese. This method brags about special dogs that won't attack the geese:

This April, the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation will pilot a one-month program using an environmentally-safe method to attempt to reduce the number of geese in Central Park. The first step of the process includes herding- but never touching or attacking- the geese with highly-trained border collies. Skilled trainers will lead two border collies in driving the geese away from the Park’s lawns and water bodies throughout the month of April. Urban Park Rangers and Central Park Conservancy staffers will supervise training and goose management.

Large flocks of resident Canada geese leave excessive goose droppings, resulting in large areas of landscape that are unavailable for public use and recreation. In Central Park, geese continually overgraze the grass around the Harlem Meer and its surrounding landscapes, increasing erosion. The high nitrogen content in goose droppings can alter water chemistry and produce algae that rob the water of oxygen, killing fish and other wildlife.

Bred to herd sheep, collies have a natural instinct to round up flocks of geese. By patrolling various areas of the Park, the geese will be encouraged to abandon the lawns and water. In conjunction with the border collies, public education is crucial. Feeding geese only encourages them to linger in public areas. Herding dogs and education are two methods of Canada goose management that are approved by the Humane Society and the USDA Office of Wildlife Services.

Brilliant. They got the geese out of Central Park and to someplace else. Like Laguardia.

On "Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat"

Guest Weblog By Madhav Khandekar. Climate Science, Jan 2009

There is an article in Science [H/T to W. F. Lenihan!]

Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat
David. S. Battisti and Rosamond L. Naylor Science 9 January 2009: 240-244.

The abstract of this article reads

“Higher growing season temperatures can have dramatic impacts on agricultural productivity, farm incomes, and food security. We used observational data and output from 23 global climate models to show a high probability (>90%) that growing season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics by the end of the 21st century will exceed the most extreme seasonal temperatures recorded from 1900 to 2006. In temperate regions, the hottest seasons on record will represent the future norm in many locations. We used historical examples to illustrate the magnitude of damage to food systems caused by extreme seasonal heat and show that these short-run events could become long-term trends without sufficient investments in adaptation.”

An excellent weblog by Pat Michaels on this Science paper is also worth reading (see).

Madhav Khandekar has e-mailed me on this article, and graciously accepted my invitation to post as a guest weblog his insightful comments on this paper. Dr. Khandekar is an Environmental Consultant (extreme weather events) and worked for 25 years with Environment Canada in Meteorology. His weblog follows.

Guest Weblog by Madhav Khandekar

“I read the abstract and summary of David Battisti’s article from Science and am very disappointed at his naive analysis of “hot” future climate and its possible adverse impact on world-wide and in particular tropical agriculture. I am afraid he (David) has NOT tried to understand or analyze in depth how agriculture has evolved in most tropical regions.

From my limited analysis of agricultural evolution over south Asia (where more than 60% of humanity lives today) most regions have substantially increased their grain & food (fruits, veggies etc) supply in the last 25 yrs. Increase in max temp (due to GW) alone is NOT necessarily deleterious to agriculture in Asia and tropical Africa. Reduced rainfall (seasonal, Monsoonal) can be more deleterious to agriculture and so far there is NO indication that Monsoon or seasonal rains over Asia & tropical Africa have declined in the last 25 yrs.

Allow me to provide some numbers: For India (I have done extensive analysis of Monsoon and agriculture for India) the rice yield has increased from 25 M tonnes in 1950 to about 100 M tonnes in recent yrs and most of India’s rice grows in the Peninsular India where mean temp has increased by about 1C over the past 50 yrs. During the Monsoon months mean temp is about 32/35c (David refers to this as ‘critical’, which is NOT correct) but with good rains from Monsoon season,rice can grow quite well there. In the northern Province of Punjab (India’s wheat growing region) wheat grows due to winterrains (December-March, about 6-10 cm) plus excellent irrigation (perhaps best in the world) and today Punjab produces about 70 M tonnes of wheat, compared to about 15 M tonnes in the 1950s. Besides wheat & rice India also produces a variety of other grains like beans, sorghum, soya, barley etc. India has two agricultural seasons, Kharif the main Monsoon season,

June-Sept and Rabi, winter season Dec-Feb this only for selected regions of Peninsular India and parts of central & north India where irrigation is well developed. The two seasons’ total yield today can and does provide sufficient grains/fruits/veggies etc for 1.2 B people of India, this represents about 20% of world’s humanity!

Based on limited analysis, I can say that “there is plenty of food today for most people in India (there is NO starvation anywhere!). Admittedly, the prices of grains & veggies are yet NOT affordable to everyone. The Central Govt (in New Delhi) is doing its best to provide basic grains (rice & wheat) to many rgions at subsidized prices.With general elections coming in the next three months or about, the ruling Govt in New Delhi will try its best to provide adequate food/grains to everyone so the next election will NOT be on “food shortage” issue, BUT most certainly on terrorism which is becoming the most talked about issue at present. Elsewhere in south Asia, food grains and fruits and veggies have registered increased yields in the last 25 yrs and most regions (including Burma OR Myanmar where there is strict Military rule) have adequate food supply.

In summary I completely disagree with David Battistie’s analysis of “reduced grain yield” in a warmer world! This issue is very poorly analyzed. Battistie gives example of the Sahel region, which is a poor example in my opinion. Battistie should know that the Sahel is NOT the grain basket for Africa. It produces a measly few M tonnes of peanuts, so why worry about possible depletion of few M tonnes of peanuts, while completely ignoring hundreds of M tonnes of grain being produced elsewhere? To give some more numbers: For the year May 2007 thru April 2008, India’s total grain yield, per an article I read in May 2008, was estimated at about 230 M tonnes, possibly largest yield in the last ten yrs. During an election in July/August 2008 in one of the southern Provinces in India, the New Delhi Govt was promising people there that “rice will be made available at Rs 20 per Kilo-this translates to about 50 cents (US) per kilo!” (Delhi Govt has purchased large quantities of wheat & rice for distribution at subsidized rates).

p.s. I met Battistie at a CMOS (Can Met & Oceanogr Soc) Annual Metting in Kelowna British Columbia in 1995. He is agood modeler and I had good discussion with him. I am afraid he puts “too much” faith in his models.”

Dr. Khandekar added the further comments below after I requested permission to post as a guest weblog.

You are most welcome to post my comments on your blog. I would feel honoured to see my comments on south Asia’s grain and food sufficiency over the last 25 yrs in your blog.

Allow me to make few more observations: I visited two major cities of India New Delhi (lat 30N Population ~ 11 M) and Hyderabad (lat ~13N Population ~8 M) in the last year and was impressed to see both these cities full of vegetation and big shady trees providing a nice “green look” despite the fact that both these cities have hot summer climate with max temp reaching 42-45C at least ten days during the premonsoon months March-May. In New Delhi, India’s capital city, there is an area in Central Delhi (close to the India Met Dept main office) called The Lodi Gardens, which is about 2 Sq Km area with lots of large trees providing excellent shade during hot summer days. These well-known Lodi Gardens were established by the Lodi Family which ruled New Delhi around 1000-1100 AD. It is interesting to note that these Gardens and the trees have survived the relatively cooler climate of the LIA (Little Ice Age) and are thriving well, even during the hot summer days of New Delhi. I recall New Delhi recording max temp of 50C for about two weeks in June 1998, the so-called ‘hottest’ year as designated by the IPCC.

Both New Delhi & Hyderabad have Monsoonal climate where summer (June-September) rains provide the annual moisture (about 20-25 inches of rains both places). New Delhi does get few cm of winter (December-march) rains, while Hyderabad only occasionally gets some winter precipitation via Easterly Waves from the bay of Bengal (in the east) of about 3-5 cm.

Even the State of Rajasthan (in Northwest India) which has a desert climate can and does support fair amount of greenery and large trees dotted along ‘old’ dried rivers as well as elsewhere in the State. Northwest India has experienced an interesting climate change over the last two thousand years (recall Late Prof Reid Bryson’s study of the 1960s on ‘dust & climate”) and there are numerous stories in the Hindu Mythology about the vanishing River Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) which was full of water some 1500 years ago and is completely dry at present. There are plans at present to revive the old dry river bed to make it green again!

When one closely analyzes the climate of India and south Asia, Battisti’s present study in Science seems deeply flawed.

Oil, minerals, the Sun: “Finite” Is Not “Scarce”

“Finite” Is Not “Scarce”, by Michael Lynch
Master Resouce, January 18, 2009

[A scientist was addressing a luncheon gathering and mentioned that the sun would burn out in 4 billion years. A woman in the front, alarmed, asked him to repeat the number, which he did. "Thank goodness!" she exclaimed, "I thought you said 'million'". Traditional physicist joke.]

Many of those writing on oil markets, energy security, commodity prices, and energy policy often cite, with great authority, the fact that “X is finite.” This can be seen both in the general press, such as the recent story on Abu Dhabi’s effort to diversify away from oil revenue (, and in more detailed reports, such as the one written for the Army: “Energy Trends and Their Implication for US Army Installations.

”In the words of Vijay Vaitheeswaran of the Economist, “So what?” I have had this comment, that “x is finite,” made to me repeatedly, and I ask the questioners why they think it matters, to which they usually reply, “Well, it means production has to peak.”

But after all, isn’t everything effectively finite? Coal is finite, minerals are finite, and so forth. Even renewables rely on the sun for power, and the sun’s fuel is finite. So why should this mean we have to be concerned.

Or looked at another way: wasn’t oil always finite? A hundred years ago it was finite, but so what? What action should any government have taken then to respond to its finite nature that would have been meaningful.

The point is, as the lady in the anecdote above understood, that numbers matter. Finite is not scarce and it makes a huge difference whether or not the number is large or small, not whether it is finite.

Carbon Tax or Cap-and-Trade? Don’t Forget “Neither”

Carbon Tax or Cap-and-Trade? Don’t Forget “Neither”. By Robert Bradley
Master Resource, January 18, 2009

An article in today’s Houston Chronicle, "Debate Flares over How to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions," compares the relative merits of a carbon tax and cap-and-trade. We will be hearing a lot about these two approaches in the weeks and months ahead.

But the Chronicle article did not consider the other major alternative: neither a tax nor a cap-and-trade program. Yet that free-market alternative is alive and well. Some top Houston-based energy economists favor just this approach, which would amount to continuing the status quo as far as the federal government is concerned.

Several good arguments support the option of unpriced carbon dioxide (CO2).

First, it keeps the government from further politicizing the energy industry. If you believe that government is the problem and not the solution to energy problems, more government via a new energy tax is not the way to go.

Second, such an energy tax is regressive, hurting lower- and middle-income users the most. Thus a complicated rebate or credit program might have to be imposed in order to neutralize the problems of the "simple" tax approach.

Third, any tax will disadvantage the imposing country relative to countries without CO2 taxation. Such a discrepancy invites new restrictions on international trade in the name of "equality" and "climate stabilization." A trade war might arise between developed countries with carbon restrictions and developing counties with lighter or no carbon restrictions. Such protectionism is a high cost of such a tax. (Cap-and-trade has the same flaw).

Fourth, any new addition to the tax code, even if it is revenue neutral at inception, will take on a life of its own. The tax might change in unpredictable and unjustified ways, and it might not be revenue neutral for long. So the qualitative decision–do not impose a new tax, period–guards against the quantitative unpredictability of a new tax regime.

Are there other worthy arguments to add to these four?

BHO: From Lady Liberty to renewable energy

From Lady Liberty to renewable energy, by Dave Rochelson, Saturday, January 17, 2009 02:45pm EST

Just a few days before his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama stopped in Bedford Heights, Ohio, to visit the Cardinal Fastener factory there.

In his remarks, President-elect Obama pointed out that the company’s roots in the country go deep—its bolts appear in both the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge—but it now earns half its profits from the manufacture of parts for wind turbines.

“In some ways you can’t think of a more iconic company than Cardinal Fastener,” President-elect Obama said. “The story of this copmany…is that renewable energy isn’t something pie in the sky. It’s not part of a far off future. It’s happening all acorss America right now.”

Watch the video of the President-elect’s tour of the factory and his remarks

In TNYT: "It's even cool to wave the Stars and Stripes"

36 Hours in Washington, D.C., by Helene Cooper
TNYT, January 18, 2009

WASHINGTON is suddenly hip again, infused with the heady double-barreled combination of a new crowd of idealistic young political worker bees, who actually believe they can change the world, and the arrival of America's first black president. It's even cool to wave the Stars and Stripes. And in the honeymoon months of the Barack Obama presidency, before the country's marriage to its new president undergoes the usual souring, a trip to the nation's capital is just the ticket. Why, it would almost be unpatriotic not to visit.


Hobnob with the Beltway arrivistes at Eighteenth Street Lounge (1212 18th Street NW; 202-466-3922; Enter through the door next to the Mattress Discounters — there's no sign outside — take the stairs and voila! A multilevel row house, with room after room of velvet couches and fireplaces, awaits you. There's a back deck for spring and summer after-work cocktails, and the crowd is a mix of Yes We Can activists and Middle Eastern and European World Bank types.

8 p.m. 2) EAT LIKE OPRAH
Take a taxi to Capital Hill, to Art and Soul Restaurant in the Liaison Hotel (415 New Jersey Avenue NW; 202-393-7777; Oprah Winfrey's former chef, Art Smith, owns this restaurant, and it is command central for big inauguration parties. Yes, you've already had a cocktail, but you're not driving, so be sure to try the margarita, Perfected at the bar before sitting down to eat. The menu will remind you that, yes, Washington is a Southern city — don't even think of missing the Chesapeake Bay fry to start. It's a combination of deep-fried seafood — clams, calamari, shrimp, oysters with, of course, okra. Land and Sea hoecakes (with blue crab, beef and brie) are ridiculously good. If you're still hungry, then go for the pork chop with red-eyed gravy. And the babycakes — miniature coconut and chocolate cupcakes. Dinner for two, with cocktails, wine and dessert, is about $140.

10 p.m. 3) FREEDOM WALK
With luck, you did not wear the five-inch Prada heels tonight, because you're about to walk off that pork chop as you head down the National Mall. Your destination is the Lincoln Memorial (, with ole Abe backlit at night. Washington's monument row is always best viewed at night, when the tourists are gone and the romantics are strolling arm in arm. On election night, the Lincoln Memorial was an emotionally charged spot: Illinois was sending another of its sons to Washington. Since then, the monument — long the first destination for African-American visitors to Washington — has become almost a retreat, as residents and visitors alike come to read the inscription “With malice toward none, with charity for all” and to ponder America the Beautiful.


9 a.m. 4) MORNING SIT-IN
Breakfast at Florida Avenue Grill (1100 Florida Avenue NW; 202-265-1586), a soul food institution, is a dip into the past, evoking the feel of lunch counter sit-ins and the civil rights movement. The place has been serving greasy and delicious Southern cooking since 1944. Buttery grits, Virginia ham, biscuits and gravy, even scrapple — all surrounded by photos of past Washington bigwigs as various as Ron Brown, the former Commerce Secretary, and Strom Thurmond, the former South Carolina Senator. Mr. Obama might have to keep his shirt on if he follows his predecessors here.

10 a.m. 5) 1600 PENNSYLVANIA
We know. It's the ultimate in touristy. But come on, it's the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; 202-456-7041; To schedule a public tour, first you'll need to find nine friends to come with you. Then call your Congressional representative to schedule. (Not sure who? Go to These self-guided tours — which are allotted on a first-come-first-served basis about one month before the requested date — allow you to explore the public rooms and the gardens. Sorry, you won't be able to check out the indoor basketball court Mr. Obama might put in, but you will get to see the East Room, the Diplomatic Reception Room and the dining room where they have those swanky state dinners.

No, not that Betsy ... there are no star-spangled banners at Betsy Fisher (1224 Connecticut Avenue NW; 202-785-1975; This stylish and funky boutique is port of call for those deputies in the new Obama administration. (Mr. Obama's transition spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, gets her Diane von Furstenberg dresses there.) The owner, Betsy Fisher Albaugh, always has cocktails and wine on hand to occupy the men who invariably are dragged into the store.

2 p.m. 7) GO REPRESENT
It took six years to complete, but the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (Capitol Hill; at the east end of the Mall; 202-225-6827; finally opened last month. The subterranean center is meant to relieve the bottleneck that used to serve as the entryway for visitors to the Capitol. It does that and more, although the reviews have been mixed; some critics say it assumes a life of its own that is too separate from the Capitol itself. See for yourself — you can book a tour via the Web site, or just show up and wander around. The center has a rotating display of historic documents that can range from a ceremonial copy of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery to the speech President Bush delivered to Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

7 p.m. 8) PARTY CHASER
O.K., enough with the federal touring, it's time to hang out with the real Washingtonians. Head to the always hopping U Street Corridor, and plop yourself on a stool at Local 16 (1602 U Street NW; 202-265-2828;, a popular Democratic hangout. There are multiple lounges and, best of all, a roof deck, where you can see the city lights while you sip your predinner watermelon martini. A lot of Democratic fundraisers habituate the place, so don't be surprised if there's a private party in one of the rooms.

8:30 p.m. 9) POLITICAL DISH
Have dinner a few blocks away at Cork Wine Bar (1720 14th Street NW; 202-265-2675;, which might have the best fries in town. The owners, Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, are friends of Barack (well, Mr. Pitts is director of political accountability with the Service Employees International Union, which endorsed Mr. Obama, and Ms. Gross has worked with the Democratic political establishment for years). The menu includes both small and big bites, from marinated olives and cheeses to duck confit and sautéed kale. And for goodness' sake, don't forget those fries! They are tossed with garlic and lemon. In fact, order two helpings. Dinner for two with wine, around $60.

10:30 p.m. 10) SMOKE-FILLED ROOM
Puff away the rest of your evening at Chi-Cha (1624 U Street NW; 202-234-8400;, a hookah lounge where you can smoke honey tobacco out of a water pipe and sip late-night cocktails. The eclectic crowd dances to rumba and slow salsa into the wee hours, and there's always a diplomat in a corner couch doing something inappropriate — avert your eyes, enjoy your hookah and sway to the beat. You could be in Beirut. O.K., let's try that one again. You could be in Marrakesh. Well, maybe Marrakesh with Brazilian music. If you want to keep the night going, stop by Ben's Chili Bowl when it's at its busiest.


8 a.m. 11) RIVER IDYLL

Washington is known for beautiful mornings along the Potomac River, and a perfect way to see it is from a canoe. Thompson Boat Center (2900 Virginia Avenue NW; 202-333-9543;, just where Georgetown meets Rock Creek Parkway, offers canoe rentals starting at $8 an hour and $22 a day. Paddle up the river, and you might catch a Senator (or a Saudi prince) having coffee on the patio of his stately home.

12:30 p.m. 12) LIFT YOUR VOICE
St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church (1419 V Street NW; 202-265-1470;, which calls itself “the Mother Church of Black Catholics in the United States” is one of the oldest black Catholic churches in the country. The 12:30 Sunday Mass combines traditional black spirituals with gospel music. The place has been rocking with particular fervor since Election Day 2008.


Hotel Palomar (2121 P Street NW; 202-448-1800; is a Kimpton boutique hotel in the heart of Dupont Circle. Rates start at $150.

Hotel Monaco (700 F Street NW; 202-628-7177;, also a Kimpton hotel, is in the Penn Quarter neighborhood across from the National Portrait Gallery and near the International Spy Museum. Rooms from $180.

Hotel Tabard Inn (1739 N Street NW; 202-785-1277; is a budget alternative (some rooms share a bathroom) filled with charm; think Old England not far from the White House. Rooms with shared bath start at $113; with private bath, $158.