Monday, November 18, 2019

Thoughts From Capitol Hill

This week I took a break from working on my fourth novel and flew to Washington D.C. where I joined a group of about fifty coastal business leaders and elected officials to talk to our federal legislators about banning offshore oil drilling and seismic testing. This lobbying effort was coordinated by Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization focused on influencing specific policy decisions on the national level to preserve and restore the world's oceans.

The trip fit nicely with the book I’m working on with the working title of Shadow Hill. That term is coined by one of the characters, already dead in the first chapter from a murder-suicide event. Instead of calling it Capitol Hill, he derisively called it Shadow Hill. The reason being, everyone on the Hill has a secret agenda hidden by the shadows.

So in addition to my lobbying effort, it was also a research trip.

Here are a few of my observations from my trip to Shadow Hill.

I lost count of the number of security checks I had to go through, and that doesn’t count airport security TSA. Every federal building we entered forced us to empty our pockets and walk through the metal detector. Which made me ponder that if everyone on the Hill is so concerned about weapons, why don’t they tackle simple common sense regulations like universal background checks for gun ownership for the rest of us?

The day we were in and out of Senate and House offices was also the first day of the impeachment hearings. Every congressional office had a television tuned into the hearings so the aides could keep track of what was going on. Not surprisingly, the televisions in the Republican offices were turned to Fox, the Democrats were watching CNN. Same hearings, same discussions, same questions and answers…different networks.

Even the televisions in the cafeteria were turned onto the hearings. Half tuned into Fox, half tuned into CNN. I was reminded of the last time I’d been in DC and the looking up while I ate my hamburger and seeing multiple images of Stormy Daniels.

I was amused by the hierarchy of offices. For example, the more senior members of the House were ensconced in reasonably spacious offices in locations close to doorways and bathrooms. The newest members of the House were not. We visited a Representative who had just been voted into office in a special election in North Carolina whose office was so cramped, we held our meeting in the hallway. His office, by the way, was way the hell away from the closest exit. If I remember correctly, it was right next to a janitor’s closet.

In spite of the fact that I’ve been to Washington several times to lobby for various causes, I’m always impressed by the grandiosity of the place. On this particular trip, I was blown away by the Capitol Visitors Area. It was where we were greeted by a cocktail reception with our delegation and additional elected officials. I don't recall ever seeing so much marble.

I was driven back to Dulles Airport to fly home by a cab driver who was originally from Ethiopia and had immigrated to the United States twenty years ago. He told me how much he loved this country. He loved the freedoms we seem to take for granted. We also had a comprehensive discussion about politics and I was very impressed with his knowledge of the political players and current events and he had the inside scoop on what was going on with the impeachment hearings. If you want to know what’s going on, ask a cab driver in Washington D.C.

Some of the earlier blogs over the last couple of weeks talked about what people read while waiting for their flights or on their airplane. I noted, like everyone else, that most people were staring intently at their phones or tablets. Smatterings of people were reading books. One man shocked the hell out of me by reading a…gasp…newspaper.

Back to working on my manuscript. I’m on deadline.


Sybil Johnson said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the look into what's going on in D.C.

sadsd said...
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kjfgdfuh said...
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Mario Acevedo said...

Since you mentioned it, background checks are already required for every transfer of a firearm through a gun dealer or one that goes across state lines. The universal background check is the name given to require background checks for sales through private parties within a state, the so-called gun show loophole. In reality, less than one percent of criminals bought their gun at a gun show, compared to the over forty percent who acquired their guns through the black market, which universal background checks do nothing to stop. And requiring background checks for private sales between individuals has "no protective effects," meaning, they do no good since law-abiding gun owners don't sell guns to criminals. Colorado passed universal background checks in 2013 and since then gun homicides have increased 86 percent so that should tell you how well the law is at protecting the public.