The Big Lobotomy: How Republicans Made Congress Stupid
A quick refresher: In 1995, after winning a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, one of the first things the new Republican House leadership did was gut Congress’s workforce. They cut the “professional staff” (the lawyers, economists, and investigators who work for committees rather than individual members) by a third. They reduced the “legislative support staff” (the auditors, analysts, and subject-matter experts at the Government Accountability Office [GAO], the Congressional Research Service [CRS], and so on) by a third, too, and killed off the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) entirely. And they fundamentally dismantled the old committee structure, centralizing power in the House speaker’s office and discouraging members and their staff from performing their own policy research. (The Republicans who took over the Senate in 1995 were less draconian, cutting committee staff by about 16 percent and leaving the committee system largely in place.) Today, the GAO and the CRS, which serve both House and Senate, are each operating at about 80 percent of their 1979 capacity. While Senate committee staffs have rebounded somewhat under Democratic control, every single House standing committee had fewer staffers in 2009 than in 1994. Since 2011, with a Tea Party-radicalized GOP back in control of the House, Congress has cut its budget by a whopping 20 percent, a far higher ratio than any other federal agency, leading, predictably, to staff layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, and drooping morale.
posted by the man of twists and turns
on Jun 27, 2014 -
"Brigitte Höss lives quietly on a leafy side street in Northern Virginia. She is retired now, having worked in a Washington fashion salon for more than 30 years. She recently was diagnosed with cancer and spends much of her days dealing with the medical consequences. Brigitte also has a secret that not even her grandchildren know. Her father was Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz." [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Sep 10, 2013 -
The November 6th elections saw a lot of historic decisions made in the United States -- the first black president re-elected
, marijuana legalized for the first time
in two states, gay marriage affirmed by the voters
in four, and even the first openly gay senator
. But perhaps the most underreported result yesterday came from outside the country altogether: in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a solid majority voted to reject the island's current status and join America
as the long-fabled 51st state
How the bid might fare in Congress is an open question, but both President Obama
and Republican leaders
have vowed support for the statehood movement if it proves successful at the ballot box (while D.C. officials ponder a two-fer gambit
to grease the wheels). Though it would be the poorest state
, joining the Union might bring economic benefits to both sides [PDF]
And politically, some argue the island might prove to be a reliably red state
, despite the Hispanic population, although arch-conservative
governor and Romney ally Luis Fortuño
appears headed toward a narrow loss
. But the most important question here, as always, is: how to redesign the flag?
(Puerto Rican statehood discussed previously.)
posted by Rhaomi
on Nov 7, 2012 -
“I was a monster,” Malvo said. “If you look up the definition, that’s what a monster is. I was a ghoul. I was a thief. I stole people’s lives.
I did someone else’s bidding just because they said so. . . . There is no rhyme or reason or sense.”
posted by silby
on Sep 30, 2012 -
is a community-driven reporting project covering every murder in the District of Columbia. Using original reporting, court documents, social media, and the help of victims’ and suspects’ friends, family, neighbors and others, we cover every homicide from crime to conviction." [more inside]
posted by BobbyVan
on Mar 13, 2012 -
Have your Chipotle burrito at John Dos Passos
' house. Read Silent Spring
in Silver Spring
. You can now take a real or virtual walking tour of literary DC, from Roald Dahl
to Philip K. Dick
to Zora Neale Hurston
. Two DC-area poets have put together a compendium of 123 (and growing) residences in the DC area where novelists, poets, and playwrights plied their trade. The buildings may not all have plaques, but they are still standing: Dan Vera and Kim Roberts focused on
not "documenting what used to be here, but what people could actually go and take a look at."
posted by HonoriaGlossop
on Dec 18, 2011 -
The Washington Mall welcomes another hero.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is unveiled. Sitting directly between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, "the composition of the [King] memorial utilizes landscape elements to powerfully convey four fundamental and recurring themes throughout Dr. King's message: justice, democracy, hope and love." [more inside]
posted by darkstar
on Aug 22, 2011 -
In 1972, Washington, DC opened the doors
to the HD Woodson Senior High School. It was the city's first new school in twelve years, and the first to be constructed after riots devastated
the city in 1968. Like its sister school across town, it had been built to withstand
another riot, and protect its students within its fortress-like walls. For a time, it stood as the pride and joy of the city's school system, featuring a diverse range of academic and vocational programs in a state of the art 8-story building complete with escalators, science labs, and a six-lane pool; a symbol of hope for a downtrodden community. By 2008, however, things had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The building was literally crumbling, many of its original facilities had closed due to neglect, only 13% of sophomores were proficient in reading or mathematics, and violence was a daily concern. Facing no other choice, the city closed the school in 2008, and demolished
the brutalist structure shortly thereafter.
After a three year series of delays
, next week, students will begin classes
in the newly reconstructed
HD Woodson High School; a 3-story state of the art building complete with elevators, science labs, and an eight-lane pool; a symbol of hope for a downtrodden community -- leading many to question: Will it work this time? The correlation between architecture and academic performance is not well-studied, and previous efforts
have been inconclusive at best.
posted by schmod
on Aug 18, 2011 -
If you have spent anytime at all on the National Mall in Washington DC, you have no doubt seen the Tourmobile trolleys shuttling tourists around to the major attractions surrounding the National Mall. Some are now questioning the 40+ year old monopoly
that the operator has held on tourist transportation on the Mall, especially in light of the National Park Service's refusal to open up bidding, or even allow more economical or environmentally friendly services to compete.
posted by COD
on Jul 29, 2011 -
Hidden Tunnels, Bugs, and Bigamy: A Strange and True D.C. Story
: "Reports indicated that the tunnels were long and extensive – that they may have reached as far as Rock Creek Park. Some electric lighting was discovered inside. For days, wild theories abounded – was it a Confederate soldier hideout? A stop on the Underground Railroad? A liquor depot for bootleggers? A counterfeiter’s lair? Or maybe a secret laboratory for 'Dr. Otto von Golph’s' experiments?
None of the above.
" [more inside]
posted by codacorolla
on Jul 8, 2011 -
The mayor of Washington DC has been arrested
, along with 6 of the 12 members of its city council, during a protest today near a US Senate office building, objecting to the city's use as a bargaining chip while negotiating the 7th Continuing Resolution
to avoid a government shutdown last Friday. The bill prohibits the District of Columbia from locally funding abortion services, and imposes a locally-unpopular school voucher program. Had the government shutdown taken place, the DC government would have also had to suspend most of its operations including trash pickup
. For those of you keeping track, Vince Gray is the 3rd (of 6) DC mayor to be arrested while in office. [more inside]
posted by schmod
on Apr 11, 2011 -
The Complaints Choir
phenomenon, started by the Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, has spread all over the world
since last we paid it any attention
, from Birmingham
, St. Petersburg
, Penn State
, Gabriola Island
, Hong Kong
Arizona State University
, Washington, DC
, Horace Mann School
, Durham-Chapel Hill
, Toronto theatre students
), St. Pölten
, Port Coquitlam
, Ústí nad Labem
). For more information, including a 9 step guide to forming your own complaints choir
, go to the Complaints Choir website
. Finally, here's the Singapore Complaints Choir
, whose performance was banned by the Singapore government.
posted by Kattullus
on Nov 19, 2010 -
Less than a year after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States detonated the fourth and fifth nuclear weapons
under the name Operation Crossroads
in July 1946. Beyond testing the capabilities of nuclear bombs, the Navy said it wanted the Bikini tests treated like "the story of the year, maybe of the decade, and possibly of a lifetime."
Only two of the three bombs were detonated, and the project was shut down over the next months. To celebrate the efforts of Operation Crossroads, a cake in the shape of a mushroom cloud was featured
at a publicized event on November 5, 1946. In response to this display, Reverend Arthur Powell Davies, the minister of the Unitarian All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., gave a sermon on the "utterly loathsome picture"
and the message it sent to other nations. That sermon set off a flurry of replies and reactions
, that extended around the world, including a connection formed between Reverend Davies' All Souls Unitarian Church and school children in Hiroshima
. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief
on Sep 8, 2010 -