Sunday, February 28, 2010

In a line-up in Vancouver

I know you've been thinking, yeah, it's fine to tell us about the events but we can see those on TV (tape-delayed), but what's it like in Vancouver? I'm taking advantage of being in a line-up to write a bit, not withstanding the raindrops on my iPhone. No, we haven't been arrested, a "line-up" is what they call any line you stand in here. Which happens frequently. Sometimes you don't know what the line-up is for, you see other people in it and figure there might the something worth waiting for.

Actually, the lines haven't been too bad. The wait at security to get into the events, for example, seem quite a bit shorter than at Salt Lake City.

A word about the transportation system they have here. Awesome. Prompt. Efficient. And during the Games at least, essentially free. I say essentially because in theory you're supposed to pay if you don't have a ticket to an event that day. But we haven't seen anyone checking, and a local told me they decided that the cost of checking tickets wasn't going to be worth it. But at all times, it is an honor system--no turnstile, just buy a ticket and get on board. That's Liz pointing at the sign that tells you when you've gotten to the point where you're supposed to have paid your fare.

Friday, February 26, 2010


No pictures today, I went up to Whistler for the Ladies' Slalom and it was all wet snow and fog. I've given you a link to the replay on the NBC Olympics website (a video which I can't play here in Canada, thought CTV (which broadcasts the events live, by the way) has it as well. It was fun but difficult conditions for athletes and spectators today. Just glad I'm not in the Northeast for the latest blizzard, I suppose this is payback for all the folks who scoffed that it was no big deal when we had 3+ feet in DC.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vancouver 2010

It may not look like much, but that is Kim Yu-Na skating off the ice while several young ladies pick up all the stuffed animals and flowers that showered down from the crowd after her wonderful performance. Grace, style, strength--she blew away the rest of the field. It was a great night of figure skating, with Joanne Rochette providing the inspirational story in getting the bronze medal less than a week after her mother died unexpectedly.

We're having a great time here, I've got to get to bed to leave very early for women's slalom up at Whistler tomorrow.

Back in the world, the bill to repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurers passed the House 406-19. Congressman Garamendi played a major role in making it happen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Back in the Bay Area

It's been a quiet week in Our Nation's Capitol, the House was in recess to enable the members to go back to their districts to begin reminding the voters who they are and what they've done in advance of the election in November. For me it was a great time to catch up with old friends and to make some new ones.

Things will pick up this coming week, but I'm back here for a few days and then heading up to Vancouver for the last four days of the Olympics, a trip that was planned more than a year ago. So I'll be blogging from there.

For now it is wonderful to be home and to be reunited with Liz (and Zorro).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Those who remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Yes, I know that this is the opposite of Santayana's famous quote (OK, I admit I didn't know whose quote it was and had to Google it). But after two weeks in ONC (Our Nation's Capital), I am beginning to feel as though it is at least as apt this way.

It seems as though every discussion about an idea begins with a description of how that idea was proposed (and in most cases, failed) in bills introduced in [fill in the blank - the 1980's, '90's, 2000's]. Institutional knowledge is coin of the realm around here, and since I have none, it is natural that I should be somewhat impatient with it.

I'm not suggesting, mind you, that it's not a bad thing to know what happened in the past; clearly it would be foolhardy and ineffective to try to do anything without an understanding of what's been done (or in most cases, not done) before. I am saying, however, that it is all too easy to be trapped by what happened (or in most cases, didn't happen) in the past.

It reminds me of someone who worked for me who would respond to every idea that I presented by saying, "We tried that in [fill in the blank--the 1980's, '90's], and it didn't work, was unpopular, etc." Finally I took to replying, "Yes, well I wasn't there then, so we're going to try it again."

There is a variant of this which I think of as "Round up the usual suspects." (Epstein, Epstein & Koch, 1942). Which is to say that the steps that are taken by everyone involved in response to any particular proposal are so well-ingrained that it seems that no one seems to recognize how bizarre they are or able to imagine that things might be done differently.

And of course when the other guy is using the rules to stop things from getting done, it is always unfair and an abuse of the system. Should we think about changing the rules to make it harder (or impossible) to use them to gum up the works? But wait, one day we're going to be "the other guy," and what then?

"Round up the usual suspects!"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

Beautiful blue sky. Wind starting to die down. Road plowed. Still no bus service, federal government still closed, but I can foresee the day when I will no longer be writing about snow. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Now it's officially a blizzard. Whether you call it Snowpocalypse or Snoverkill, enough is most definitely enough.

Monday, February 8, 2010

More snow days

With the DC metro area still digging out from the Blizzard of 2010 and federal government offices closed, what was there for us to do but go skiing. We had a great day, but it reminded me a bit of what the Genie says in Aladdin about having unlimited cosmic power and teeny-weeny living space: We had beautiful blue sky, great snow, teeny-weeny ski hill. But you won't hear me complaining, it was lots of fun.

The government is closed again tomorrow and we are expecting another 10-20 inches of snow from tomorrow afternoon into Wednesday, so it could be a while before the People's House is open for business.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Day

Big snowstorm has begun, everyone is hunkering down. The Congressman is co-sponsor of a bill to eliminate the antitrust exemption for health and medical malpractice insurers, introduced today and to be voted on next week. Q: Will House and Senate Republicans vote to allow health insurers to conspire to fix prices? Time will tell.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The hits keep on coming

On Day 3, I attended a meeting with a couple of Senators and a couple of Members to discuss . . . well, that would be telling. If you're interested, keep your eyes out for a bill that should be introduced in the House tomorrow. This time the boss wasn't there, so you won't be surprised to hear that I spoke up to say what I thought he would have said. All of which was well-received. I am finding that the tone of all of this is extremely collegial and constructive; I actually think that if people could see what goes on behind the scenes, rather than the Kabuki show on CSPAN, they would be impressed with how seriously their representatives take their business. But then again, I've only been in meetings with Democrats.

The boss heads back to CA tonight or tomorrow and we're expecting a big snowstorm Friday night, so there may not be much news from here for a few days.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

First real day

When Liz and I last lived in DC, from 1979-81, it struck me (probably not an original thought) that Washington and Hollywood are a lot alike. Company towns, with a hierarchy made clear by who you know, who will return your calls, what meetings and parties you're invited to.

It still feels that way, only now it's as if Rupert Murdoch has to agree before HBO or Showtime can put a new show on the air. As you can imagine, his main interest is not in their increasing their audience share.

Today the Congressman took me to a meeting in the Speaker's Office, in attendance were the Majority Leader and a number of Members, as well as staff. I won't go into what was discussed, other than to say that Speaker Pelosi solicited everyone's views and reached a consensus on what should be recommended to the Democratic Caucus with respect to a particular bill. While saying that she would welcome Rupert Murdoch's support (ie, any Republican votes), she isn't counting on it.

My thoughts contributed to the discussion as expressed by the boss, but I promise, I am not letting it go to my head.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First Impressions

Walking toward the Rayburn House Office Building, the Capitol looks huge.....down the wide halls, offices of members on either side, wooden doors flanked by flags-US, State, POW/MIA.  Wonder if that will always be there.  How about a flag for those MIA from the American Dream, from health care, from a decent job?

Already feel the contrast--huge problems and issues, minutia of the legislative process.  Need to be master of both.  One of the "young people" called me "the expert in all things complex."  I'll take it as a compliment on my first day.