DC bound

This morning I’m heading back to DC for the Cato Institute’s first-ever intern reunion, a massive event bringing together veteran interns from the think tank’s long history. This will be my first time back in well over a year. On my last visit I’d only been gone a few months and it felt like coming home. This time the city and my lifestyle there seem more distant, though perhaps I’ll slip right back into once I’m there. I will say this for DC: Despite the political world’s constant careerism and its priorities that are often not my own, I do miss the intellectual engagement the city always had on offer and the camaraderie shared by libertarians living in the belly of the beast. Where else could one pack a bar to the walls by offering drink specials and airing a Milton Friedman documentary?

In any case, the weekend will be fueled with copious food and drink. I already have a reservation at Columbia Room and Sunday brunch plans at my old hangout Eatbar (even if we can’t light up stogies there anymore). The lure of pollo a la brasa is strong. I’d like visit all the places on my old list, though that’s impossible. Eventide and Birch and Barley have opened since I left and I would love to visit them. What else is new that I should seek out?

Not even “famous for DC”

Five years I spent in that swamp of a city and this is how I end up in Politico? I knew that photoshoot would come back to haunt me.

No disagreement?

Damn. Cato took out full page ads this week in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Roll Call objecting to Obama’s claim that “There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy.” The ad is signed by some 200 economists and reads:

With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true.

Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policy makers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.

On the other hand, Obama’s plan persuaded Cato to inject much-needed revenues into the struggling print journalism industry, so he’s got that going for him.

Free to Booze

Do you have plans for Repeal Day yet? This year’s the big one, the 75th Anniversary of the 21st Amendment. Cato’s marking the occasion with what looks to be a fun and informative policy forum:

Featuring Michael Lerner, author of Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City; Glen Whitman, author of Strange Brew: Alcohol and Government Monopoly; Asheesh Agarwal, Former Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning; and Radley Balko, Senior Editor, Reason. Moderated by Brandon Arnold, Cato Institute.

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, thus ending our nation’s failed experiment with Prohibition. Organized crime flourished during Prohibition, but what were the other effects of the national ban on alcohol? How and why was it repealed? Please join the Cato Institute for a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and a discussion of its legacy and continuing impact on America. Drinks will be served following the discussion.

Note the “drinks will be served” line. These won’t be just the usual Cato beer and wine. Though we’re still working out the details, the plan is for me to be there mixing up a menu of classic pre-Prohibition cocktails.

But that’s not the best part. A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s bar in Eugene when he mentioned that he’ll be visiting DC the very same weekend. I told him about the Cato event and asked if he’d be interested in tending bar with me there. And lucky for us, he said yes. So you won’t just be getting drinks from this lowly libertarian cocktail blogger, but also from the man himself, Mr. Repeal Day, Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

It’s going to be a fun afternoon and we’d love to see you there. If you’re going to be in DC on December 5, RSVP for the event here, and be sure to also check out Jeff’s site RepealDay.org for more Repeal Day updates.

Organizational tweeting

Craig Newmark points to Gene Weingarten’s predictable “I’m old and don’t understand the point of this Twitter thing all the kids are doing” column from earlier this month in The Washington Post. Weingarten complains that’s it’s hard to write anything profound in 140 characters or less, which of course misses the point. We’ve talked here before about how Twitter helps create a social sixth sense; I feel far more in touch with the friends I left behind in DC than I would without it. In just the past few weeks I’ve used the service to find a good barbecue joint in Kansas City (thanks, Tim!), locate sources for a paper I’m writing, express things I’d like to say but not write a full blog entry about, join my DC friends at a “virtual bar” as we watched the conventions and debate together, and possibly line up a regular writing gig.

Weingarten does bring up one thing that bugs me too, though:

My problem with Twitter is that it has become so big and so popular that some newspapers, including this one, are stuffing their latest headlines into Twitter alerts. Even the presidential candidates are kowtowing to it, sending out 140-character campaign news updates. (Some of these sound as though they were composed by the authors of product-assembly manuals from Taiwan. Here’s an actual McCain alert: “Hillary turned McCain bloggers shut down by blogger? . . . Doesn’t add up.”)

Lots of organizations are jumping onto the Twitter bandwagon, but I don’t think they really get the medium. I’m bombarded with Twitter accounts from think tanks and magazines whose updates just duplicate information that I’d rather get from RSS feeds, email subscriptions, or by visiting their websites.

The Cato Institute writes one of the better feeds. It includes some information I might not otherwise catch, like scholars’ upcoming media appearances and interesting news stories. Most of it, however, I’d rather get (and probably already do) via more traditional routes. Because the links are shortened to TinyURLs, I don’t know if I’m clicking on an op/ed, a paper, a podcast, a blog post, or a news site. And most of these items, though interesting, are just clutter when they show up on my mobile phone rather than on my computer. So as much as I like Cato, I don’t follow the feed. (All of this goes double for you bloggers who link every single one of your posts to your Twitter feed. An occasional highlight is fine, but let’s have some perspective here: If I’m on Twitter, I’ve probably mastered RSS.)

298 people do follow the feed, so their strategy is certainly working. Even so, I’d like see a better use of the medium. How about more spontaneous, timely tweets alerting me to events or TV and radio appearances? Cato has some witty people in the building; how about 140 word commentaries from them? Snarky remarks from Jerry Taylor or Jim Harper I would tune in for.

The company I’ve seen use Twitter best is Bell’s Beer. I visited their cafe in Kalamazoo, MI last month and updated my feed to say that I was there. Bell’s was following me before I finished dinner. They search for anyone mentioning their beer and add them as a friend, then update their own feed with the latest news about their beers, events, an inside look at what the staff is up to, and answers to questions from their fans. As a result they’ve brought in more than 400 followers in just over two months. (It helps that their beer is awesome too).

A newspaper column isn’t a blog post isn’t a Twitter update. As more organizations are tempted by this new medium, I hope they’ll put in the effort to make their updates truly worthwhile.

Update 9/28/08: Twitter fun fact: “In Dell’s case, the company says it’s made ‘well over’ $500,000 in sales from sending special offers from its Dell Outlet store to its Twitter group, which it began in June 2007. The group has almost 1,500 ‘followers’ who receive its messages on a regular basis.”

Previously:
Faking it
These kids and their Facebook

Cato in The Post

My friends at Cato get a nice profile in The Washington Post today:

The specter of the most titanic intervention in the markets since Franklin Roosevelt started sewing the safety net has folks at the Cato Institute reaching for something strong.

“I’m thinking of taking up drinking,” says David Boaz, executive vice president.

He’s kidding, of course. Just a little gallows humor from the author of “Libertarianism: A Primer,” who has a Goldwater poster and two busts of Adam Smith in his office.

Instead, in their handsome building on Massachusetts Avenue, faced with a proposed $700 billion government bailout of Wall Street, this town’s most gung-ho libertarians and free-marketeers are reaching for their coffee and their keyboards. They are invigorated. The prospect of doom and ruination for everything they hold dear only makes them stronger.

I feel bad for the media intern who will have to figure out how to log all the references and quotes from the article, but I’m glad to see Cato get such a sympathetic treatment. Now if only the Post would start incorporating more free market policy ideas into its articles…

Take my life… please!

With my imminent departure from DC comes a couple of job openings. First, from Cato, a newly defined position:

The Cato Institute seeks a Manager of New Media to promote Cato research products and scholars via social networking sites, blogs, and other Internet-based outlets. The position will also be responsible for increasing The Cato Institute’s presence on YouTube and other video/audio sharing websites, in coordination with the Multimedia Producer, and will maintain outreach lists of top blogs and Internet-based news outlets and assist with the development of web-based research and briefing products. The Manager of New Media will be expected to organize briefings and other events specifically targeted to web-based media as appropriate. The position requires 2 – 5 years work experience at a nonprofit, government or association marketing or public relations office, a comprehensive understanding of how the U.S news media operates, and a proven ability to promote policy issues and experts to blog and other online media outlets.

That would actually be a more interesting job for me than what I’ve been doing, though not so interesting that I’d stay in DC for it. The new vice president of communications has been a pleasure to work with and it’s a great time to join the press department here. If this kind of job appeals to you or someone you know, apply soon.

Grape and Bean is also looking for a coffee lover to take my place working the Clover on Saturday mornings. It’s a fun shop with very nice owners and great perks for people into coffee, wine, beer, chocolate, and other goodies. Contact information is on the site, or feel free to get in touch with me directly.