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Archive for the ‘washington d.c.’ Category

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “…in the Beltway” when someone is describing their love/hate relationship with those in Washington DC, especially politicians. Usually, these days, it’s said with mixed feelings or unadulterated (is that a word?) hatred.

I’m definitely an “outsider” as I’m not a politician and my thoughts of Congress, especially with the “new Congress” about to begin, is not so much centered around hatred as it is disappointment, fear and sometimes a faint sense of hope when certain bills get passed that may actually help the American people.

And yet I am a Washingtonian, one of the few born there and although I have lived far and wide since my birth, I have returned like a homing pigeon to my roots. I returned when Bush 2 controlled the Beltway and I couldn’t figure out why people weren’t truly frightened of him and what he represented to the common folk in our country. I still don’t understand to be honest, especially as the repercussions of his actions on behalf of big corporations and his own ego (militarily) are never more evident than they are now. And yet the current head of the “Beltway”, President Obama, appears to be getting the blame for actions taken long before he was on the ballot.

Now it’s my turn to watch with bated breath as Obama faces the second half of his first term. He made amazing gains and some incredible mistakes during his first two years, but I truly believe he does have the American people (as in all the people, not just the wealthy) in mind as he decides his course of action. He faces a strong opponent (as in the Republican party) and will probably make compromises that will hurt those of us with equality in our hearts. Here’s hoping he receives timely and wise advice when needed.

Meanwhile, my focus “in the Beltway” will be in trying to determine what the truth actually is. Factcheck.org helps, especially when any politician of any party quotes statistics or says something is “proven”. Reading blog posts, such as Nicholas Kristof’s recent “Equality, a True Soul Food”  http://nyti.ms/dLr8HU will help keep me focused and yes, I’ll even try to be open-minded to the new Congress…

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A beautiful day yesterday, now only in memory as the summertime starts up with humidity hitting the airwaves.  I’ve learned the trick of adjusting (somewhat) to the DC metro area. Make sure to spend a bit of time in the humidity and not just hide behind an AC somewhere. The more time you can spend outside, the more your body becomes adjusted and the next summer you find you can last a little longer before the “enough already” sets in and you run into the nearest building. If you are a tourist fortunately there are plenty of museums, free ones at that, which offer coolness and even refreshments to help you cool down.

But then there are those nights that you want to brave the humidity and get caught up in fun and rhythm and music to keep your toes tapping or even dancing. Not too far from DC, on the Maryland side is a town called Silver Spring that offers great music for free from June through August. A few examples of the types of live music being showcased this summer include: rock & roll, oldies – 50’s and 60’s, Celtic, jazz, blues from Spain, salsa, reggae, pop, funk, soul, bluegrass, West African, rock and zydeco. Phew, I am mopping my brow with a smile on my face already.

In addition to the wonderful music, the offerings include SilverDocs, “an eight day internationally recognized film festival that celebrates independent thinking and generates global media attention.”  The other thing about the SilverDocs movies (over 100) – you are inside in the cool AC, so if the heat or humidity is too high, and you want to see the unusual, this event is for you.

Downtown Silver Spring has a bunch of other activities, from books to booze (there is a relationship in there somewhere). I know most folks spend the majority of their time going to the beaches, driving hours in congested traffic, waiting in airports, in hotel lines, or even on the spare couch cushion at your cousins. But if you are in the DC Metro area or are just visiting, get away from the usual “spots” and go visit a fun place that’s only minutes away.  I know I will.

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The latest headlines, “Recession Hits Social Security Hard,” are just that, the latest headlines. We’ve all been reading for years of the trouble Social Security and Medicare are facing and that long term solutions should “start now”. I was in my twenty’s the first time I read about this – I only remember because I laughed, with a Murphy’s Law cynicism, the news predicted at that time it would run out the same year I turned 65.

I’m not laughing now. Since then I’ve learned that women only make 78 cents to the dollar a man makes and one of the biggest area that impacts women is their retirement years. It used to be thought (and still is depending upon whom you talk with), “that’s ok, a woman will live off her husband’s pension anyway.”  Given the current economy, one feels like asking, “what pension?” And if a woman is single, unless she started (or starts) financial planning early, well, let’s just say, YIKES!

So when years later, I hear that Social Security and its companion, Medicare, are in trouble, I hope that this time someone will listen. The fact that the recession has only added to its woes compounds the bigger issue of preparedness. And the impact on women extends to their families, for obvious reasons.

For decades, the government seems to have been ignoring its own warning signs. Just as equally, people haven’t been preparing enough. I hope the current government in Washington has the ability to not just put a band-aide on the wound, but to gather our community focus – government, corporations, small businesses, everyone of us – on solving the real issues now, for my future, for your future and for the next generations to come.

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I grew up with mom spending lots of time in the various gardens she created in whatever house we were living in at the time, Army family that we were. I remember lovely smells, bright colors and her pride. I also remember weeding in the hot sun and pushing an un-motorized contraption called a lawn mower, mainly because my dad and sister had allergies and my other, older siblings were never home.

Many years have passed since those days and living in apartments or city houses, I had the luxury of either watching others do the work or didn’t have the need except to trim the occasional hedge. Now that I’m a home owner watching my third summer looming, I suspect that “gardening” is not really a term for “being one with nature”, but rather a description nurtured by companies who cultivated suburbia long ago, ensuring homeowners give up the good fight and contract with a weekly service.

I had this lightbulb “conspiracy theory” moment as I waited in an incredibly long HomeDepot line this weekend, cart filled with a small amount  (if the loads being pushed by others were any indication) of top soil, weed and feed and  two types of seeds (shade and direct sun). Getting home, I needed to recover from the shopping, so it was late morning by the time I got to the yard.

My plan? To churn up the three feet of soil around my dogwood tree in the front yard as it usually becomes mostly dirt patches with a few green weeds as the season progresses. I tried organic last year, leaving nature to do it’s work… and the only thing that I saw happen was a takeover by the few weeds, not in the dirt patches but throughout the rest of the yard. Churn I did, the goal – once around to break up the soil, once around again to mix in new top soil, seeds, another thin layer of top soil, water and be back inside to be ready for my House Manager role at the one o’clock performance of the SkyDancer Sunday matinee performance.

Well, half way round the first circle of the tree, the rake broke, the prong part just coming right off. I looked at it, at the handle in my hand, sighed, but popped it back on and went back to work. Three passes later, the rake popped off again. So every fourth action, I had to stop, put the rake back on and continue at an odd angle for maximun usage before pop-off again. At one point, I event tried one of those three-prong things you use in your hand – however even broken, the rake worked better.

Sweat pouring down, 3/4’s done, a friend came by, took pity and helped me finish. Of course, I had also miscalculated the amount of top soil needed (no wonder those folks used pallets back at HD) and “spread thinly” became about as sparse as those chocolate chips found in today’s cookies. I finally ran inside, covered in dirt, with only minutes to spare to help set folks up for the show (more on that later).

Later that afternoon, I returned to the task master called lawn, struggled with the bag of weed and seed and poured an undetermined amount into the green thing that spreads it around as you wheel it about. Of course there is some algebraic formula you are supposed to use to calculate how much gets spread at a time. I tried, but of course the bag I got didn’t match the name-brand of the spreader so, no hope. I simply guessed, started pushing and off I went. We won’t talk ab0ut that one corner I took too fast and dumped a whole pile of the stuff…

All of this effort to grow some decent grass. I don’t even need it even like the commercials, I just want it green and somewhat plentiful. Barely able to move my arms or back today, I look anxiously at the sky and hope for that rain they promised us. Another task now added. Flowers you ask? To be continued….

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The temperature in and around Washington this morning is a crisp 35 degrees, colder than usual for this time of year. We had a late snow not too long ago and clouds have hidden the sun for most of the days recently.

And yet, and yet! Spring has managed to find it’s way to our shores and I could feel the smile on my face even as I could see my breath.  On the way to work, I exchanged an unexpected smile with another driver as we waited for the light to change and both of us were looking at a few early tulips in bloom. Exchange a smile with another commuter on a Monday morning? A miracle indeed.

Here’s  what made us smile – as taken with a cell phone, leaning out of my car window:

Spring Tulips

Spring Tulips

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I am a sucker for that old movie, White Christmas, and when I woke up this morning for the first true snow storm of this season, I couldn’t help smile and hum the Irving Berlin’s “Snow, snow, snow” tune (I would have put a link here, but all the onesI found had so much commercial junk attached, I’ll let you find a simple mp3 version if you want). 

Of course the fact that it’s March 2nd is also worth a smile, in like a lion out like a lamb, as the old saying goes. The temperature has just reached 21, with the windchill making it 6 degrees according to the weather-person. Although I have to chuckle, the local news shows are all talking about Obama and since he comes from Chicago, he must be wondering what all the D.C. bru-ha-ha is about a few inches of snow. And here the Federal Government is two hour delay opening, with “Unscheduled Leave”” policy in effect – and lots of business here follow their lead. Hope the President doesn’t drive today, he’ll really be in a shock when he sees how folks around here can’t…in the snow at least….

So for the moment I’m watching out my windows, the beauty wonderful since I haven’t had to venture out yet, with frequent white outs due to swirling powder. I live on one of those “never get plowed” side streets and am thankful I’m not a emergency responder, unlike my neighbor, a nurse, who seems to go out no matter what. Applause to that.

Winter wonderland, or view from my back porch today

Winter wonderland, or view from back porch 6:30am today

And yes, those are Christmas lights that are still up, the new led ones, though! I thought they might be fun to keep up for those spring, summer, fall evenings of sitting outside with friends, whether in person or when I sit and chat via phone or web. Meanwhile, a good four more inches later, it’s still snow, snow, snowing 🙂

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Several folks passed this along via email this week. Don’t know who the original writer was, nor how accurate the numbers may be. But certainly loved the premise!

“The Proposal”

When a company falls on difficult times, one of the things that seems to happen is they reduce their staff and workers.  The remaining workers need to find ways to continue to do a good job or risk that their job would be eliminated as well.  Wall street, and the media normally congratulate the CEO for asking this type of “tough decision”, and his board of directors gives him a big bonus.

Our government should not be immune from similar risks.  

Therefore: Reduce the House of Representatives from the current 435 members to 218 members and Senate members from 100 to 50 (one per State). Also reduce remaining staff by 25%.

Accomplish this over the next 8 years. (two steps / two elections) and  of course this would require some redistricting.

Some Yearly Monetary Gains Include:

$44,108,400  for elimination of base pay for congress. (267 members X  $165,200 pay / member / yr.)

$97,175,000 for elimination of the above people’s staff. (estimate

 

$1.3 Million in staff per each member of the House, and $3 Million in staff per each member of the Senate every year)

$240,294  for the reduction in remaining staff by 25%.

$7,500,000,000 reduction in pork barrel ear-marks each year (those members whose jobs are gone). Current estimates for total government  pork earmarks are at $15 Billion / yr.

The remaining representatives would need to work smarter and would  need to improve efficiencies. It might even be in their best interests to work together for the good of our country?

We may also expect that smaller committees might lead to a more efficient resolution of issues as well. It might even be easier to keep track of what your representative is doing.

Congress has more tools available to do their jobs than it had back in 1911 when the current number of representatives was established  (telephone, computers, cell phones just to name a few).

Summary of opportunity:

$44,108,400 reduction of congress members.

$282,100,000 for elimination of the reduced house member staff.

$150,000,000 for elimination of reduced senate member staff.

$59,675,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining house members.
  
$37,500,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining senate members.

$7,500,000,000 reduction in pork added to bills by the reduction of congress members.

$8,073,383,400 per year, estimated total savings (that’s 8-BILLION just to start!).

Big business does these types of cuts all the time.

If Congress persons were required to serve 20, 25 or 30 years (like everyone else) in order to collect retirement benefits, there is no telling how much we would save. Now they get full retirement after serving only ONE term. Now ask yourself, where could you find a job with those types of benefits? You CAN’T!

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