Friday, October 29, 2010

All that remains after a stampede of elephants is one big lame duck.

Disclaimer:  The following is a news story for my media seminar in DC.  It was due today, and after some great editing (thanks again Sara!), I feel confident enough to share it with you.  Since I am posting this to my blog, I also felt confident to keep the editorial comments at the end--ones that did not make it into final draft for class...

Washington — The next session of Congress may see a lame-duck pattern similar to last session if Republicans win the House majority next Tuesday—reinforcing partisan divides and delaying key issues.

After the election, Congress will have stacks of unfinished budget legislation to mark-up in committees and debate on the floor, but the larger issues facing the upcoming lame-duck (expiring Bush tax cuts, an energy bill, immigration, cap-and-trade, or even for the new Obama stimulus package) could bring policymaking on Capitol Hill to a screeching halt.

Currently, an omnibus budget bill for FY2011, the bill that keeps lights on in Washington and an entire payroll of federal employees happy, still awaits legislation, but Congress does not return to Washington until after Veteran’s Day.

Meanwhile, Republicans would like the chance to put off other important legislation until the 112th Congress is sworn in—a potential Republican majority for both houses—but the funding bill can’t wait.

In August of this year, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) forced a vote on a resolution to block passage of any “controversial” policy proposals during a lame-duck.

He warned against the “last chance” for Democrats to pass card-check, an energy tax, and other government programs.

While his resolution failed on a largely party-line vote, Rep. Price set the tone for the weeks and months following the mid-term elections.

He also hinted to a few interesting points:

What if lame-duck sessions freed lawmakers to vote differently then they otherwise would have? Would we see radically different behavior from legislators during the lame-duck session after they see defeat at the polls?

That rarely ever happens, but lame-duck sessions have been quite commonplace: there were 17 held from 1940 through 2008, or one after every two elections.

To be sure, some sessions were pro forma and accomplished very little while others targeted a single issue or action.

In the weeks before groups of Democrats were sworn in to compete with Republican presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan after the 1982 election, the lame-duck passed numerous delayed appropriations bills, an increase in the gasoline tax, and a pay raise for itself.

When Republicans took control over the House in the 1994 elections after 40 years under control of Democrats, the lame-duck Congress passed one piece of legislation: a major trade bill to implement the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was accomplished on a bipartisan basis.

Newt Gingrich, a potential Republican nominee for the 2012 Presidential election, recently said Democrats have “no moral authority” to legislate during a lame-duck session.

“There’s a good chance [2010] is going to be a bigger election than 1994,” Gingrich said.

While Gingrich largely repeated the rallying cry used by Republicans to fire up the base this election season, he didn’t mention his use of a lame-duck session to impeach then-President Bill Clinton after significant Republican losses in the 1998 midterms.

The most interesting aspect about the lame-duck could be one of two possibilities not commonly discussed:

First, Congress could set a date to convene the new session after the election and adjourn the existing one with no date for resumption until January.

Second, President Obama could call the recessed Congress back into session at a specified date following mid-term elections.

Regardless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has talked up the possibility of “staying in session as long as it takes” for lame-duck action.

If Democrats lose their majority in November, the lame-duck session might be their last chance to achieve many of their legislative goals for at least two more years--if not more.

For those Democrats facing defeat on November 2, they really have little left to lose. In fact, they might as well go to the gallows, set a new precedent, and be historic liberal reformers by legislating.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More than just a few missing words...

I am no longer hesitant to admit that my parents are correct about a slew of things that occur in my life.  In fact, their advice and words of wisdom arrive with near fortune-telling precision.

I wouldn't have agreed with that statement a few years ago, but as I mature into my late twenties, I am more aware of many things they've been telling me, or told me, growing up.   Honestly, I've started to see much of what they said and predicted come to fruition, and here's an example that prompted this post.  It might just work to raise your awareness.

Five or six years ago, my mom and I were having a random conversation about words and the English language in general.  Out of nowhere, the word "texting" came up.  At that time, texting was somewhat of a new word, and texting alone was still quite the phenomenon.  Anyway, we started to joke about how texting was beginning to consume an entire form of communication between people.  Jokingly, we put the word "text" into its many forms ("sexting" and "flexting" had not, however, been thought up yet).  We agreed that our favorite was "texted" because when commonly said, no emphasis is added to either syllable since the second, -ted, is said with such vigor.  TEX-TED!

It was during this conversation where my mom dropped some of that knowledge, which I have somewhat avoided--until recently.  Boy, was she spot-on!  Almost word for word, she said, "Trevor, texting will be the downfall of the English language."

Sound and substantial advice, yet simple, subtle, and precise.  Here's why:

At that time, cell phone service providers were still trying to figure ways to divy out and make profits from text messaging plans, and I guarantee you that neither of my parents had ever read texts before--let alone sent one.  (A brief side note: I think we can all remember that first text message from each parent *awkwardbut it has grown on you.  Eventually, you came to relish in an ability to delay the inevitable phone conversations with a mere tap of the thumbs.  Ahh, what splendid freedom!)

Now, let's get back to the point I am trying to make.

Basically, my mom had it right a few years back.  She predicted, with precision, what has now metamorphosed typed and texted English, and here's the bottom line: we are getting very, very lazy.

Over the next few days, take notice of emails and texts you receive and send--especially the emails.  You might just notice what I'm telling you.  What will appear to be normal sentences, with basic elements compiled to make complete sentences, are now truncated, shortened, and abbreviated.  I'm not talking about acronyms (LOL; LMAO; DAB; DTF); I'm talking about when the typer or texter has dropped more than a few words and fragmented the hell out of their sentence.  Here's a few examples:

(Text) "Played football at the white house."
(Text) "Not a fan of the nickname."
(Text) "Sorry about missing your call." -- This is one is my pet peeve because it removes ownership to the apology when you don't say "I'm sorry."
(Email) "Thought you might get a kick out of this."
(Text) "Was watching the Giants game."
(Text) "Still feel like getting drinks?"

What happened to the pronouns?  Is it really that much effort to add an "I" or "You" or "I'm" at the beginning of a sentence or question?  Seriously, it's a problem, and this is exactly what my mom was referring to.  What's worse, the laziness has infiltrated the type of emails being exchanged in professional settings, and it's frightening.

Here's a thought: try and counteract the effect of being lazy in your writing, typing and texting, and instead, be grammatically correct with EVERYTHING.  It truly commands respect, and I have to say, it's also contagious.

I only say this now because from what I can tell, as I scroll through previous text messages and emails, I reply to the texters and typers who use proper English with proper English of my own.  And then I come across texts and emails where I succumb to the lazy culprits, and alas, I give my thumbs a rest.

So just try it.  Dare ya.  Should be easy.  Nothing to lose!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not my typical Wednesday morning.

Every Wednesday since I moved to DC, I sleep in, make coffee, make something for breakfast, and then attend my research seminar on the first floor.  Wednesdays provide a nice break in the middle of my busy week; plus, it's a day off from working my internship.  Last Wednesday, however, began with a much later than usual wake-up, and I had a rough start as soon as I wiped the sleep from my eyes.

Waking up later than expected was largely attributed to the fact I was out celebrating a birthday very late into the night, so I had no time for making breakfast or waiting for the coffee to brew.  I couldn't even take a shower before class, so I threw on some clothes as quickly as possible, got a few things together for class, and headed to the nearest Starbucks for a very large coffee.

I typically do not frequent any coffee shops nearby the Center because we (The Guys in 608) brew our own, but I remembered there was a Starbucks only two blocks away.  I headed straight there.

As I rounded the corner, I noticed all of the furniture had been moved onto the patio right by the front entrance.  I immediately thought to myself, "Shit, it's like 9:45am, and I need to be back at the Center for class in fifteen minutes."  More importantly, I thought, was where the hell another Starbucks was and how I desperately needed coffee to cure my hangover--waking me up for my three hour class.

So, with a quick search on my coveted BlackBerry, I found another location for caffeination not far away (And by the way, 'decaffeination' is a word but 'caffeination' is not? Bullshit.  It is now.).  Now walking in double-time and struggling with my hangover twice as bad, I was on my way to Dupont Circle for a red eye.

As I walked up Connecticut Avenue in quick pursuit, my headache intensified with an instant flood of sirens making their way towards me.  Motorcycle after motorcycle and car after car, the motorcade approached the intersection where I had Starbucks in my sights.  Instead of walking the zebras, I waited a full thirty seconds for this parade of red and blues to pass, sirens blaring, only to find myself catching a quick glimpse of the POTUS in the back of his Cadillac One.

I'm no sucker for a glimpse of anyone--especially when I've seen them before--but only in DC will my right-of-way be impeded on to let the presidential motorcade through.

I guess that's one right I'm willing to give up while living in DC.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wedding in Seattle.

Check out this great short my cousin put together from the wedding in Seattle.

Until next time . . .