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.
The United States' National Security organization has many parts, from the famous (NSA
) to the mundane (OCI
) to the more esoteric (NRO
). But even the most dedicated Washington insider may not have heard of INR
. [more inside]
Political reporter John R Stanton
(aka Big John
) has been thinking about the gentrification of DC. Late last night, he tweeted up a story about DC in the old days
, personified by a junkie
There's been a lot of talk in the US media about the "Fiscal Cliff" and the "Grand Bargain
" What are they?
The "fiscal cliff" is a confluence of three legal changes taking effect Jan. 1: the expiration of a payroll-tax cut, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and the advent of mandatory spending cuts known as "sequestration." Fiscal Cliff 101: 5 Basic Questions Answered
. What's Happening: Fiscal Cliff Explained [more inside]
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.)
“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.”
If you've spent any time in Washington, DC during the past few years, you're probably familiar with Capital Bikeshare
; the region's immensely popular
bikesharing program. The system's big red bikes are designed for casual use, and are built like tanks to avoid damage, vandalism, and theft. This past weekend, one Falls Church, VA resident undocked one of the 40lb bikes
, and rode it to the finish line of the Nations' Triathlon
. [more inside]
The Mommy-Fight Site.
What does it mean to raise a child in "America’s highest-income, best-educated Census area
? D.C. Urban Moms and Dads
might be as close as it gets to a field guide to parentis Washingtonianis
" [more inside]
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."
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.
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]
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]
Tired of the hype
(and before that, the BBC
's) modern teen drama Skins? Miss the 90s
? Try Orange Juice in Bishops Garden
, a web series
, detailing the lives of a group of teenagers as they navigate high school in the year 1994. The show is set and shot in the greater metropolitan Washington DC area and is created by the DC-area filmmaker, Otessa Ghadar
. [more inside]
The National Mall
in Washington DC is a site for many historic events. Starting today
mall visitors have access to free unrestricted WiFi (even the blue) from 3rd to 14th streets. This is just the latest addition to DC's expansive public WiFi network
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]
"Wow, what a long engagement that was!" During a chance second encounter in Baltimore in 1945, Henry Schalizki, now 88, and Bob Davis, now 89, met and fell in love. More than six decades later, the couple finally legalized their union.
When Washington D.C. began licensing same-sex marriages last week, this story
came out on the paper edition of the Washington Post with this photo
on the front page. (WARNING: the photo depicts two men kissing) The paper received complaints from upset readers, some of whom canceled their Post subscription.
the Post's ombudsman,
"There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites. Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change."
is a biweekly show on D.C. micropower FM station Radio CPR
featuring interviews and guest DJ sets from longtime local punk musicians, artists, and
activists. [more inside]
the mysterious Shadow Candidate
for Shadow Senator
of the District of Columbia? Marx Cafe Bartender Damien Ober, kind of.
Ober wrote a series of campaign ads
(which can alternate between provocative, sophomoric, and simply creepy, depending on your point of view) in response to D.C.'s lack of congressional representation, and hired an actor to sit in the darkness portraying his unnamed candidate. After viewing the videos on youtube, however, the D.C. Libertarian Party has decided to give him a for-real shot at the for-fake position.
Washington, DC is defined by its income inequality. [more inside]
Washington's Other Monuments
is a photoblog by photographer Lloyd Wolf
chronicling "the many sad memorials erected by friends & family to honor murder and other violence victims in the Washington DC area. These spontaneous, homemade, heartfelt creations are found on streets throughout the region. They are often the only physical tribute to the many slaying victims." Washington Post article
. [via Eddie Campbell]
Photoset: DC in the 1970s.
Washingtonians, take a look. Some things haven't changed at all
, other things are subtly different
, still other things are no longer there
"Hey, darling. Love you. Need your vote."
Politics without presidents: a soulful portrait of former DC mayor Marion Barry. I was really impressed by the dog in the left-hand corner of the picture. (registration required)
A friend reports that she's in lockdown in her office at The Canon House Office Building
in Washington, D.C. due to a man wielding a .38 pistol. The Canon House Office Building houses 1/3 of the members of the United States Congress. Offices are now being searched for the gunman. He is supposedly a shorter man with dark hair and white shirt. News first emerged of the gunman around an hour ago.
They are the weak, the maligned, the oppressed. They are...the Capitol Hill staffers
. (One of the many entertaining features of Hill Zoo
, a site that brings a little humanity back to Washington.)
At D.C. protests, a few hundred thousand go missing
- "Like most young Americans, I've been trained to think of protests and demonstrations as something shameful and vaguely embarrassing-something one outgrows, like Journey albums, or those hour-long showers you took when you were eleven and twelve."
Stinging dead-on reportage about the media's coverage of the anti-war movement, from Matt Taibbi
DC Suburbs slowly getting denser
I've been a participant for the past 5 years in what is easily the 2nd-3rd most insane housing market in the US: Washington DC. Apartment occupancy is 99% in the desirable areas, and "affordable starter homes" (in finger quotes) are priced at $250-$350k. People with good jobs can barely afford this. So what happens to folks who are just getting their feet on the ground in the country? More the merrier. How do you strike a balance between providing affordable housing that is accessible to living-wage jobs without running out the existing neighbors?
Surviving a Sniper
A great article about saving one of the D.C. sniper victims: The doors to the Bowie Health Center had just been unlocked, and Tom Lyons was catching up on paperwork before the usual parade of cut fingers, sore throats and headaches began. [...] He was savoring one last cup of coffee when he heard someone shout for him in the hallway. We've got a gunshot wound!
The street where my office is
will most likely be fenced off and guarded by police when I roll in tomorrow morning. Conventional wisdom in D.C. for tomorrow is: a) Don't try to drive b) Don't try to take the Metro, either. Great.
Don & Mike v. Opie & Anthony.
O&A are hot in New York, but D&M are doing poorly there. The opposite is true here in DC. At the risk of perpetuating a lie by posting this story here, I can't help but think that the on-air fight between these two radio programs from Infinity Broadcasting seems a little contrived. Anyone on metafilter, or any other online forum, knows that a flamewar and controversy breeds interest.
The World Bank in Washington DC said today that some of its mail had tested positive for possible anthrax contamination. 1200 employees there will be staying home tomorrow. It's the third report of a positive test in DC this week. Hysteria, residue from before, or is it happening all over again?
Ben's Chili Bowl,
a Washington, DC institution if ever there was one, has put up a site. This eatery was opened in the 50's, when U St. NW in DC was the 'Black Broadway', survived the riots (and the ensuing economic disintegration) and is going strong today, still run by the family that opened it.
Next time you're in DC, go in and order a few half-smokes just like Bill Cosby does - he and his wife had their first date there - and say hello to Mrs. Ali. If you already live in DC, rejoice in the new online ordering interface and have your chili cheeseburger waiting for you when you breeze through the door.
The US’ World War II Monument
is expected to open in 2004. The 7.4 acre
monument has been roundly criticized as both “seriously flawed
” and “off-key
”. Apart from these critiques, I wonder if the US memoralizes too many wars
and not enough peace
Old Baby Skeleton Found In D.C. Attic
I don't usually crosspost stuff here and on my weblog but this one was just too weird to miss:
Contractors installing duct work in an attic found a suitcase containing the skeleton of a baby who apparently died more than 20 years ago, police said. The home was built in 1928 and occupied by members of the same family until the mid-1990s. The last of three elderly sisters who lived there died in 1995 at the age of 102, and the house was sold five years ago.