Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

As I write this, I still cannot believe this is true. It feels like a piece of my childhood just died today. I remember dancing around as a kid to Michael's albums. He was iconic, he was a legend. And whatever shell of his former self he became in his later years, his accomplishments and contributions to the music industry are written in the history books.

I have to admit, I don't usually get choked up about things like this, but as the radio station played his hits, I found myself crying. And a little later when I had to pick something up from the store, I couldn't even remember my own pin number. This is such a loss, such a loss. I mean, who tops him? What male pop/r&b artist comes close today? If you ask sooo many people today about their careers, they will tell you Michael Jackson inspired them. The choreography, the music video, the dance breaks, all these standards were set by Michael Jackson.

My prayers go out to his family and his children. I am deeply sorry for their loss. Our loss as fans doesn't compare.

Beyonce in Washington DC

Last night, after a very long and eventful work day, I took my little cousin into the big city to see Beyonce. I had heard and seen from television performances that she puts on a great show. And it was a quite a spectacle. I was very impressed and felt like I got my money's worth. Unlike many acts today, she can sing and dance. She has got stage presence, charisma, and she just "puts it all out" on the stage floor. She works for her money. I was very impressed, and I feel like she is close to becoming that which she aspires to be: a legend.

I feel like there is a general lack of professionalism among artists today. And however bland it might be in her interviews, Beyonce is professional. She is composed when she needs to be and lets lose when it is appropriate. And where it may seemed contrived with a lesser performer, she makes you feel it, she makes you believe she is a superstar.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone who has it seen the show, but at one awesome moment, she walks on air...literally. She killed it, and she filled the huge Verizon Center here in DC. And if you hadn't heard, the First Lady brought Sasha and Malia to the show. If you have the opportunity, you should definately check out Beyonce's concert. It is worth the money. You will leave satisfied.

In light of the passing of Michael Jackson, I appreciate Beyonce's showmanship even more. She is a true talent in the same manner of legends before her. I appreciate her contributions to the industry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

President Obama has a lot on his plate. He has acted swiftly to get his agenda passed through Congress. Stimulus, bailouts, bankruptcies, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DOMA, Green Energy, War in Afghanistan, Healthcare reforom, financial market reforms, and he can still find time to take the First Lady out on dates. What is he, Superman? Hardly, just very intelligent. Even when his most loyal supporters began to question his master plans, he seems to prevail in the end. Polls are showing that the public is beginning to question his spending. And he is spending alot. Still, despite this, people still like him. And what's not to like? The beautiful wife, family, and dog! Of course, I have my opinions on the five problems swimming around the President's head in the picture above. But, I don't feel quite at liberty to share them. However, in my mind, among the easiest things to fix are LGBT issues. It seems crazy that we want people to serve in the armed forces but enforce this silly rule. And then there was that DOJ brief a couple of weeks back using incest citations to support the Defense of Marriage Act. The Department of Justice motioned to have a Federal case thrown out for lack of standing (among other reasoning). I actually read the brief, and it is very well done. The legal reasoning is solid: DOMA must be settled legislatively and the party alleging injury in the case had no standing to bring the case before the Federal Courts. The brief was good, but the writers forgot the "politics" of the situation and used incest citations. Ouch! And the president seems to be feeling the pressure as he made a concession and signed a presidential memo awarding some federal benefits to same-sex partners (although this has been happening in the private sector for a while).

But the War in Afghanistan, Gitmo, Wall Street, the Auto Industry, Healthcare reform, and Green/Energy reform...these are highly complex and politically volatile issues. I am anxious to see how all this will play out.

Metro Train Crash

There was a metro train collision (seen above in the AP image) a little after 5 p.m. this afternoon. I took the VRE back to Stafford at 5:25 p.m. It was actually a nice day today and so I walked from the Capitol to L'Fant train station. Although the collision was on the Red Line, it just makes you think. I, like those people on that train, was just getting off from work and making my commute home. You really have to count your blessings and be thankful for each day. At any rate, the press reports there have been four confirmed deaths and many others injured. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people who lost someone today.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

War Supplemental

We just passed a 106.6 billion dollar war supplemental providing for increased funding and support to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The supplemental serves to beef up our efforts in Afghanistan pursuant to the President's outlined "strategy" during a speech he gave in March. The bill is H.R. 2346. The power to make legislate appropriations and revenue bills vests with the House of Representatives exclusively. This is because the House is said to be more representative of the majority (it's true). At any rate, there are thousands of bills introduced and circulated around Congress. The process is long and there are various obstacles bills must overcome before becoming law. This is one of many perpetual checks on power the Founders placed on our form of government. However, the House Committee on Appropriations reported on the original supplemental on May 12, 2009. The bill was cleared for Mr. Obama's signature on June 18, 2009. It took a little over a month for us to write a 106.6 billion dollar check in further funds to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is fine, and I support the troops, but if someone was asking you for money, wouldn't you want to know a little bit more than vague and general descriptions? The bill is online for public view, but I am sure it will go unnoticed.

To illustrate my point, a section of the bill allocates 1.6 billion dollars to support efforts building up Afghanistan's economy and rule of law. I didn't know the rule of law came at such a fixed rate, and as far as an economy is concerned, are we not still in a recession, albeit on the recovery. I agree that we are in the mess and we need to stabalize the region as there is a struggle for power and control of the people's support. But with reports of the present government's corruption and contention with minority groups, it would seem a bit problematic for us to train the country's army if it is ran by a government a good number of folks find corrupt. I almost wish for the days when we would fund insurrections or paramilitaries to overthrow other governments. That's the way you do it. Change is brought upon by 'the people.' Hopefully, Iran will show the Afghans how it's done.

President Obama should tread carefully with this war in Afghanistan. I am certain he knows and there are plenty of intelligent people around him. So I guess we will all see how this turns out. But, it doesn't look pretty.

My Daily Routine

I start every day at 5:30 a.m. While I get on my feet, I am staying with relatives in lovely Stafford, VA. The city has got some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. I have been here through three seasons, and it is quite nice -- the snow in the winter, the great spring weather, and now getting into the HEAT of summer. At any rate, I only live 40 odd miles from DC, but since this traffic is one of the worst in the nation (3rd in the nation I think), it can take 40 minutes to 90 minutes getting there. So, most days I have to take the train: the Virginia Railway Express. It is a nice and comfortable ride that takes a little over an hour with all the stops in between. So I lwake up at 5:30 so I can eat something and watch the news. I don't leave my house until 6:50 a.m. The train I take leaves every morning at 7:20, and that puts me in city at somewhere around 8:30. From L'Fant Plaza, I walk to Rayburn to start the day.

So, technically I am a legal/legislative intern. I have a good stipend so it makes it worth my while. It was of great fortune that I got this position starting out and not something else. I don't believe I do traditional intern tasks. And that's a good thing, I am a J.D. after all. So that should be good for something, right? Nevertheless, I brief memos, attend hearings, and conduct meetings with lobbyists. In general, I assist the Congresswoman's Legal Counsel/Legislative Director with her activities with the House Judiciary Committee. I draft talking points, formal correspondence, hearing testimony, hearing questions, floor statements, and most recently legislation all on the Congresswoman's behalf. It's all great, and I am gaining great experience. I transitioned into the position seamlessly. I am not sure when the "internship" will end, but I definately plan on staying on the Hill for a few more years. At least that's the plan. But I was recently told, "when man plans, God laughs." So I will let him work it out.
This is a picture from getty images. It was a House Judiciary DOJ oversight hearing with Eric Holder testifying. And that arrow points to me at the Legislative Assistant table. The hearings are very interesting. So far, I have had a lot of initial insight on many of the hearings due to the courses I chose in law school. Death penalty has come up, mandatory minimums, prosecutorial discretion, and a host of other topics have been discussed during hearings. So all those writing classes paid off. And I can't stress enough, I do A LOT of writing. So, that's another personal blessing because anyone who knows me well knows how much I love to write. It's been over two months, and the novelty has not worn off...I work on freakin Capitol Hill. Everything I have studied, all the politicians I follow, all the news I have spent hours watching, and all the politics I have followed -- and I am right in the middle of it all during Pres. Obama first term, a new SCOTUS pick, and a democratic majority in the House and Senate. I don't and won't ever talk about what happens outside what everyone sees on TV. It's kind of interesting since I always talked politics before, but now it would seem a bit unprofessional to talk about what goes on in the House. But, it's cool. There are plenty of other things to talk about. So I can blog about life in general in DC/Virginia.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aristocratic Style: Post-Grad

Well, I suppose I am doing this out of sequence. I should start by discussing what I have been up to since I finally got called into "the game" after a what seemed like an eternity on the proverbial bench. I will begin by saying where I am now is all due to God's grace. There is no other way to explain it. Sure I worked hard, but for things to turn out as perfectly as they did -- well, that is attributable to God. But I will get into all that in another post. I will start with my love affair with Washington D.C. Maybe it's not quite that dramatic. Truth be told, after the first day, I felt like I belonged. I have not been lonely or homesick. In a strange way, it has felt like I have been working up to this moment my whole life. So I have embraced the city: the culture, the cuisine, the people, the sad realities, and the POLITICS.

I work on Capitol Hill for the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically, I work within the office of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35). That's the legendary Rep. Waters. I probably will never say much about what goes on in the office of in Congress, but I will say that it's all thrilling, and I love going to work everyday. It is cliche, but really, I have the opportunity to help people. And this is a personal dream come true. I may not be able to save the world, but bill by bill, I have the opportunity to help someone some where. And I have been really struck by how many people do care about politics. Maybe it is the high from Pres. Obama and the renewed sense of democracy, but people care...and call. So as it was when I was at the first Presidential Debate at Ole Miss, I have found myself another front seat to history -- working in government during President Obama's first term and during all the changes he is trying to make. It's an historic time and it's a little scary. But whatever happens, my style game will be proper.