Clay Risen

Home Page
May 02, 2005

The Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) sits on a narrow, triangular plot at the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and First Street, just a few blocks northwest of the Capitol. Completed in October, the twelve-story tower is wrapped in a curtain of blue-green glass; standing across the street, one notices less the building than the sharpness with which it reflects its surroundings. And it is so narrow that, looking back at it from the intersection of New Jersey and Massachusetts Avenues, a few blocks north, one barely notices anything at all.

April 11, 2005

There are few things more American than Nestl Toll House chocolate chips. In their distinctive yellow bag, complete with a logo invoking a New England inn, they have long been part of the domestic clich. They recall moms baking cookies and children playing in suburban backyards. It's an image Nestl carefully tends—the first thing a visitor to the Toll House website sees is the tagline, "A brand that America trusts has provided the best-tasting chocolate chips for over 50 years.

Southern Man
January 31, 2005

Trap-shooting rarely qualifies a candidate for public office, but, in 2002, it helped decide the Tennessee governor's race. Sometime that summer, a range owner in eastern Tennessee got wind that both candidates--former Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, and Representative Van Hilleary, a Republican--were avid hunters. As a way to bring his range a little publicity, he challenged the candidates to what he called the Great Tennessee Trap Shoot, to be held over the Labor Day weekend.

Endangered Species
December 27, 2004

Every year, just before Thanksgiving, I head down to Fairhope, Alabama. It doesn't take much to get me to make the trip; for my money, there are few places more beautiful than this sleepy town on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. But my stated purpose for this particular journey is to attend Southern Writers Reading, a weekend klatch of panels, readings, and parties that draws many of the region's novelists, poets, and fans. It's a great time, full of intelligent conversations with friendly, warmhearted people.

Debt Riders
November 29, 2004

Anyone who thinks deficits don't matter to voters should look at the recently concluded Oklahoma Senate race. In Washington, the victory of Republican Tom Coburn over Democrat Brad Carson has been viewed through the prism of Coburn's extreme cultural conservatism--he favors executing doctors who perform abortions, among other things. But, in Oklahoma, the picture looks much different. In the primary, in which he handily defeated former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, Coburn ran largely on a promise to cut pork-barrel spending and push a balanced-budget amendment.

September 13, 2004

Risen: How George W. Bush lost the Cato Institute.

September 13, 2004

In 1997, Cato Institute President Ed Crane flew to Austin, Texas, to have dinner with George W. Bush. Bush was still governor of Texas, but his star was rising in the national GOP firmament, and Crane wanted to make sure he had the governor's support for the libertarian institute's signature policy idea, Social Security privatization.

'Nuff Said
June 07, 2004

In the aftermath of September 11, the FBI hired Sibel Edmonds--and hundreds of others who, like her, were fluent in Middle Eastern languages--to translate thousands of hours of backlogged wiretap transcripts and other documents. Edmonds didn't stay at the FBI for very long, though. In March 2002, after she complained to her supervisor about poor management, slow progress, and even a possible spy within the translators' department, she was fired.

Bubble Bath
May 24, 2004

Investors go gaga over the company.

Bubble Bath
May 24, 2004

It has been barely four years since the dot-com bubble burst, but Google's impending initial public offering (IPO) has investors, analysts, and financial journalists partying like it's 1999. Over the past two weeks, the financial media have praised Google and its thirtysomething founders in a manner unseen since Netscape and its own wunderkind founder went public fewer than ten years ago.