Potomac Chronicle

Washington’s Media Myopia

More than two years ago, I wrote what was admittedly a very grumpy column bemoaning what had happened to the Washington press corps. Specifically, I railed on about how the White House Correspondents’ annual dinner had changed, and what that said about both the capital and the media that supposedly covered it.

“The dinner has evolved (or devolved) into a self-important, narcissistic gathering of corporate chieftains, big-name lobbyists, Hollywood celebrities, reality TV stars and a different breed of journalists -- more from TV, especially cable TV, and glamour magazines like Vanity Fair than The New York Times,” I wrote. “A few old-time journalists grouse about the change, but for the most part, the coverage, replete with photos of women in fancy dress and men in tuxedos, is all breathless and gushy.” READ MORE

The Police Problem Hiding behind the Humvee

In the days after the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., news programs ran video after video showing local police around the country armed with machine guns and driving heavily armored vehicles. The New York Times described a desert-khaki-painted MRAP -- for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle -- sitting next to a snowplow in the municipal garage of Neenah, Wis. And a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that the University of Central Florida in Orlando owns a grenade launcher, retooled to fire tear-gas canisters.

MORE: Read the rest of the December issue. READ MORE

Crazy Quilt Federalism

We launched Governing magazine 27 years ago in the belief that most of the innovation and energy in American government, both in policymaking and management, was occurring at the state and local levels, not in Washington. 

Just four months before our first issue rolled off the press, John Herbers, a reporter for The New York Times and one of Governing’s first columnists, wrote a long analysis in the Times about how the structure of governance was changing. READ MORE

Paul Ryan Declares War on the War on Poverty

In a truly stunning speech this summer, former Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin declared war on the “War on Poverty.” The strategy he offered up is fascinating and thoughtful, and it captures just how much the nation has changed since Lyndon B. Johnson first declared that war 50 years ago. 

The plan Ryan proposed gives states the option of combining up to 11 federal grant programs, including food stamps, welfare and housing aid, into a single block grant. States would be given a lot of flexibility in figuring out how best to spend the money; their only objective would be getting clients from welfare to work. The feds, in return, would pledge not to cut funding. READ MORE

Are Governments Neglecting Planes and Trains?

I recently completed a one-week white water rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, an experience that was both exhilarating and terrifying. It wasn’t just the Class IV rapids that held my intense interest, though. It also was my fellow rafters -- 16 of them, almost all of whom knew one another. Unlike most of these expeditions, this one was all amateur, meaning there were no professional guides from some outfitter, just rented rafts, huge coolers, a camp stove and, yes, a port-a-potty. You brought your own tent and sleeping bag. 

I was especially impressed by three fellows -- a lawyer, an astrophysicist (or “chaos scientist,” as he called himself) and a senior pilot with United Airlines. The three were very capable river guides who could maneuver the 16-foot rafts down roaring rapids with great skill; all three were also associated with a consulting firm that contracts with NASA to help develop something I only vaguely knew of called NextGen, a joint multiagency and industry initiative to overhaul the nation’s air traffic control system. READ MORE