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Posts tagged “politics

Fiorina: A Role Model

Watching the second Republican debate, something incredible struck me – and it had absolutely nothing to do with politics. It had everything to do being a women.

There’s been a lot in the media in the past few years about women, about girls, about being strong and being respected. Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In and people of all persuasions read it. Women, men. Democrats, Republicans. The CEO and the middle class and the night janitor. Girl Scouts teamed up with women’s rights groups and pushed to Ban Bossy. Always has gotten press for their #LikeAGirl campaign. An absolutely brilliant video was created two years ago that reveals the differences between impressions of men and women doing the same thing:

Carly Fiorina is an incredible example. People laughed at Sarah Palin when she was the first female Vice Presidential candidate on a big ticket. People scoffed eight years ago that the Democratic race was “the woman” against “the black man.” But Hillary is back. And Carly is a force to be reckoned with.

Carly Fiorina, unlike most of the men on stage, did not get flustered. She didn’t just meet the men where they were, she beat them. She was more impressive, more polite, and revealed herself to be a woman of effortless class. Sure, she interrupted the men, but so did the men. Sure, she went over time, but so did the men. She addressed the fellow candidates on stage with polite candor. She treated them like the incredibly intelligent people they are. When they disagreed, and they did, Fiorina kept to the issues and avoided ad hominem attacks.

She was the only person on that stage who consistently encouraged the audience to use their brain – she was the only person on that stage who seemed to recognize that we have brains. She had just as many facts as the men. She answered the questions without a stutter, without a drop of sweat. She won the “kids table” last time, and I think she won tonight’s debate again.

I watched eleven Republicans stand on stage tonight and present many positions that I fundamentally disagree with. I watched Carly Fiorina stand on stage tonight and present positions I disagree with.

I watched Carly Fiorina stand on stage tonight, and I watched her represent women with class and grace and brilliance. I watched Carly Fiorina stand on stage tonight as a role model for little girls who see infinite possibilities in front of them. She is a conservative role model that young girls in conservative families will get to see as an example they can aspire to. She is persuasive, but not pushy. She is smooth, not a show-off. She isn’t bossy, she’s a boss.

AKA a world of acronyms

It’s a running joke: politics is a world of acronyms. Just think the Alphabet Agencies of FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression. I know that. But dear God, is it a world of acronyms.

I had my first day of meetings at my new job earlier this week – a week early because the meetings were to present the nature of the company to a potential donor, and my boss thought it might be useful for me to sit in and get to know what all the company’s really about. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Well now, I’ve got the following list of acronyms to look up. All these acronyms were thrown around by the other people in the room and never defined (if they were eventually defined, I wrote that down too). Admittedly, this was a room with four experts, the youngest of which has worked in nuclear energy and nuclear policy for three years and spent the nine years before that studying it (she got her BS, MS, and PhD in Nuclear Engineering…). So I shouldn’t be surprised that, after less than a year of interest, I don’t know the world as well as these people who have been immersed in it for 10, 20, 40 years. But it was still a bit overwhelming, and I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me. Anyway, the list:

  • FLOR
  • NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative)
  • NEI
  • PWC
  • ASTM – (American standards something or other)
  • RSSC
  • HTGR
  • EFH
  • EIRP
  • BTI
  • SMR (Small Modular Reactor)
  • PPA
  • EON (the German one)
  • EON (the American one)
  • AP
  • FONP
  • KSA
  • EA (Environmental Analysis?)
  • EPC
  • DND
  • CBNI
  • API

And then, of course, there were a number of acronyms I already knew:

  • NDA
  • NRC
  • RFP
  • LWR
  • HWR
  • PWR
  • AP1000
  • And a lot more that I didn’t bother to remember because I, well, I knew them.

Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of googling to do, a lot of learning to take on, and I’m SO excited. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’ll be doing is technical and much of it will be embargoed for significant periods of time, so I won’t be able to write about it here. But don’t worry, I have other things on my plate moving forward (including eggplant!) so I’m sure there will be plenty to write about. Until next time…


I’ve always felt like bookshelves say something about their owners. The various English teachers for whom I’ve babysat always had bookshelves filled with classics; friends who are “closeted history buffs” almost always have a shelf or two devoted to historical fiction and historical non-fiction; many of my scienc-y friends have (no longer) surprising quantities of fantasy on their shelves.

I distinctly remember visiting a family friend about a week after they’d moved. Very little was unpacked – a few boxes of clothes, about half the kitchen, a box labeled “bathroom” half empty in the hall. The bookshelves were empty save three books – one she was clearly reading, one that was obviously his, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Now it doesn’t take much of a genius to figure that one out, but they were nonetheless surprised when they told me a few months later and I said “I know.” Even an almost-empty bookshelf says something about its owner.

But I’ve felt for the past few years that my bookshelf didn’t say much about me. I fly across the country and essentially displace myself and my life four or more times every year, and I have for the last four years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret my choice to live on the East coast, but it does make having a personal library a bit more difficult. All through college, I’ve felt like my bookshelf was nothing more than evidence of that semester’s (or that year’s) courses. More than half of my shelf was usually textbook, or books required for classes. Sure, there have always been a few books that were there for fun, but they never meant much – they were there for convenience, or because I happened to be reading one the last time I got on a plane.

Today, my book collection is, naturally, limited since I’ll be in this location for exactly six weeks and one day. And yet, when I look at it, I can’t help but think it does say something about me.


I’ve got two nuclear textbooks. (One chemistry, one physics) I’ve got a lab notebook and a chart of the nuclides handbook and the June edition of National Geographic. I’ve got a math book (Emmy Noether’s Wonderful Theorem) and two policy books – Arguments that Count (about missile defense systems) and The Politics of Nuclear Energy (I think you can figure that one out…) To round it out, there are two books for fun – the beautiful and thought-invoking Invisible Cities and the somewhat horrifying House of Leaves.

I glanced at my bookshelf this morning, looking for my notebook, and something hit me. It was as if I was looking at someone else’s bookshelf. I read the person to whom it belonged as easily as I read the pregnant-but-not-sharing-yet-couple’s bookshelf years ago. This person was obviously passionate about nuclear science and nuclear energy, with a bit of time – but maybe not as much as they’d like – to read something else as well.

I glanced at my bookshelf and I realized who I am. Until this morning, I thought of nuclear energy as maybe just another phase. Like all my other passions, I’ve spent the last six months or so expecting to grow out of it. But the reality is that the more I learn and the more I study, the more questions I have and the more desperately I want their answers. The more I hear about where the reality of nuclear energy is, the more I want to fix the problems, and the more I worry that I’m a naive twenty-two year old with impractical hopes, the more I realize that my hopes aren’t that far off from the experts’.

I glanced at my bookshelf and I think I’ve found my future.

Semester Preview #2

Anyone who’s been around this blog for a while knows that this is my second semester in the most beautiful city in Europe. But I’m not just chilling in Prague, traveling and wandering and taking pictures. (Although that is a lot of what I do here…) I am also taking classes. I’m here, at school, on Monday morning, waiting for my second week of classes to start, and it seems appropriate to let you all in on my schedule. (That, and my Dad emailed, asking that question.)

So here we go:

The first thing to note about my schedule this semester is that I manipulated it and took very specific classes which has resulted in the most amazing study abroad schedule imaginable. The earliest I start is 10:35 (M/W), and I only have classes M/T/W. Aka, I get four day weekends, so when I travel I can do it right (or at least better).

But how? Well, first of all, I’m taking a class called the Films and Literature of Arnost Lustig. A couple of friends took it last semester and loved it, and I’m psyched. The professor is Pepi Lustig, the son of the famous Czech author and director, which means we get an intensely personal view of the material. Lustig and his entire family managed to survive the Holocaust through dumb luck and a willingness to accept said luck, so these stories are really fascinating. I’m really excited about the class. In addition to the overall awesomeness, the class meets for three weekends – I can’t travel those weekends (obviously), but it means my weeks have a lighter load.

I’ve also lightened my schedule stress by taking two classes that meet only once a week. The first, called Nation, Power, and Money, is about the influence of media and propaganda on the Czech Republic and the world. It also got positive reviews from people last semester, and I’m excited to get a bit of this sort of thing from a different perspective. Back at Tufts, I took a propaganda class looking at the rise of Nazism and Japanese militarism, so I’m excited that this class takes the same ideas to look at the popularity of communism throughout East Europe and the Soviet Bloc, as well as how and why consumerism is similar to communism and advertisements similar to propaganda.

My other one-block-per-week class is called Global Crisis, and is about the 2008 financial collapse. This class is taught through ECES, which is Charles University’s center for American students (as opposed to all the programs in Prague that are affiliated with CU, like CIEE). We have our first class meeting tomorrow, but I’m excited. There will be a mix of students from CIEE, students from ECES, and also ERASMUS students from all over Europe, so I look forward to getting to meet some people outside of the program. I’ve never taken an economics class in college, but I think I’ll be okay, and hopefully I’ll learn a lot too.

The last class I’m taking through CIEE is my Czech Language class. There are seven people in my class – four of us from Fast Track last semester, two from other Czech classes last semester, and one whose Mom is Czech, so she has a much larger vocabulary than the rest of us, but never learned the grammar rules. All in all, this class may end up being my favorite (again!) because the people are great, and the professor is great. We had Jana last semester, so she already knows most of us and knows how we study, what we really want to learn, etc. We got new textbooks this semester (that cost $30, not $130 like Amazon says…), and she says we’ll be getting through all 200 pages, in addition to the activity book, so I have a suspicion this is going to be a challenging semester. On the other hand, every day I feel more and more like I’m getting a real handle on the language – I even understood the gist of the news last night. But that is a post for another day.

If you’ve been keeping track, this is only four classes, and CIEE has a strict five-class policy. So what am I missing? My internship, of course! I’ve got an internship at Amnesty International for the semester, which I think (unfortunately) will end up being my least interesting class, because I speak English. Basically, the advantage of having native English speakers for Amnesty and all the other companies CIEE sets up internships with is that we can edit their English documents and publications. It certainly isn’t the most exciting work, but I’m not complaining. I like the people I work with, and I’ve already noticed my opinions and my interpretations of international events changing. Hopefully it gets more interesting, but even if it doesn’t, I’m enjoying it for the most part.

But wait, there’s more! I am taking a sixth class, and I’m in the process of getting it approved for credit. Called Mystery of Words in USAC (another program in Prague), and previously offered at CIEE as Words through History, History through Words, it was the one class that I was most excited about taking before I came here. It is a little bit linguistics, a little bit history, a little bit anthropology, and is basically about how languages evolve over time, and how different languages influence and alter each other.

As always, I’ll be updating as the semester goes on with information about me, my life, and my classes, so check back shortly for information about last weekend’s trip to Berlin, and also last month’s trip to Geneva and the French-Swiss Alps.

Parliamentary Elections

I’m taking a Czech Politics class this semester, even though it barely fits into my schedule, because I wanted to take it during the elections. And I’m so glad I did. The elections happened last Friday and Saturday, and I was able to understand the results because of the class I’m in. Giving the results is probably a bit silly, because it requires a bit of knowledge of Czech politics, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it makes me happy.

The current government is, to say the least, a bit of a mess. I’m not going to go through all the history, but basically the current president (the first directly elected president in Czech history) has a brilliant political mind but is also a drunk. As in, he is literally intoxicated for the vast majority of his public appearances and meetings with other officials.

The previous parliament couldn’t form an effective governing coalition, so Zeman dissolved it after he was elected. He then appointed a Prime Minister from his own party, which was not the party in power in the parliament, basically creating a puppet cabinet. (Note that historically, the president held very little power in the Republic.) Zeman is a member of the left (not at all the same as “the left” in America) and the two most populous parties in the parliament were from the right. The election of Zeman is widely seen as a revolt against the failures of the right.

The elections that just happened were parliamentary elections because of the dissolution of parliament. As expected, the Christian Democrats won the most seats in Parliament. But that is the end of what was normal. The Christian Democrats are typically considered the strongest leftist party, and even when the right wins they usually garner 20% of the vote. This election, they got 20% of the vote. As the strongest party.

The next biggest party was the ANO party, with 16.5%. “Ano” in Czech means “yes,” and the party basically says yes to everything and everybody. This is the first election cycle the party has ever existed; it was founded last year by a Czech billionaire Andrej Babis, and is known for how eclectic its members are. They vary in profession, political background (although most of them have very little political experience), and political views and goals. A lot of people don’t know how the party will stay a single party, because they ran basically as a coalition of businessmen who say they can fix politics just like they fixed their businesses.

The next largest party, with 15% of the vote, is the communists. The communists and Christian Democrats have often created coalitions with each other, but these coalitions have been dominated by the Christian Democrats. In this parliament, however, they don’t have enough power to lead a coalition single-handedly; they will need not only the communists but also ANO to create a government, and the two smaller parties will have a lot more power than usually. Interestingly, the communists won Anna’s Mom’s village (48-42-….) and probably a good number of villages around the country. A lot of people, especially younger people, are looking at the communist era with rose colored glasses, especially because of the economic difficulties the Czech Republic has had since the 2008 financial crisis. That leads a lot of other people to worry about what will happen if the communists continue to gain power.

Other results of consequence includes the ODS party, which used to be a super strong party on the right. They, in fact, were the coalition government leaders in the last parliament. Their support, usually between 20 and 30% dropped to just 10% in this election. They still did better than the other party they led the coalition with though; the other party didn’t even read the 5% threshold for representation in parliament.

The last surprising result is Okamura’s party. Okamura is a half Japanese, half Czech businessman who ran on an anti-immigration platform. He is against immigration, against asylum, and strongly anti-Roma. I’m guessing it was this stance, combined with the recent news from Greece about the young girl presumably kidnapped by the Roma, that got him nearly 7% of the vote.

All in all, how the coalition gets created in this new parliament will be interesting, to say the least. With 7 parties in parliament, all between 6.5% and 20%, there is definitely not a mandate or even a clear coalition to be found. It makes the recent coalition bargaining in Germany look like a piece of cake. Once again, I’m glad I’m taking the Czech Politics class now, while all this insanity is going on around me.