Monday, December 14, 2009

The Willard Hotel, Frito's, Nixon's Inauguration, Lobbyists and more...

Two close blocks from The White House is the Willard InterContinental Hotel, and a grand hotel it is! Some Suites go for $3,000 per night! Some say the word lobbyists came from the Willard Hotel and the days of hard-drinking President Gen. Ulysses S. Grant nightly wandering over to the Willard bar for a whiskey. There were gladhanding throngs lurking in the lobby only too happy to buy the President a whiskey and succor federal favor.  Martin Luther King wrote his "I Have A Dream" speech he delivered on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 there.

Some of my own personal history include my mother's habit of taking her sons to lunch around Christmas-time and eating surf and turf at the Occidental Restaurant inside the Willard.  But my favorite story comes from a cold January 20, 1968 when Richard Milhous Nixon was to be inaugurated President. I was an 11 year old new Boy Scout, and our Troop 881, was to a be a back up Honor Guard. That meant we froze in our little uniforms and were allowed to warm ourselves and wait interminably inside the now dilapitaded run down Willard Hotel, paint peeling and graffiti abounding.

Marriott had given up one box lunch each, Pepsi all the Pepsi we could drink and Frito's all the Frito's we nervous, cold Boy Scouts could shovel into our fat faces.  It was only a few years ago that the smell of Frito's didn't bring on a nausea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Colder and Merry (Greek) Christmas!

Four hours passed this cold gray day before a penny was made. Oh sure, I like pedalling around the Mall and getting some exercise, but this is a job and that means I need to get paid for it.
But there was a lighting of a Christmas tree on the grounds of the Capitol at 5pm . Several pairs of ladies paid for my words and legs. A Greek pair told me the way to say Merry Christmas in Greek - phonetically - Kala Christougena.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"The whole world is waiting for your Congress to pass a climate bill."

"The whole world is waiting for your Congress to pass a climate bill." said a young woman from Italy I picked up in front of Smithsonian Air and Space Museum tonight. She works on climate change for the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, Environment Research and Development Department in Rome.

Vanessa has a Ph.D. in Microbiology; she worked on biological remediation methods for hydrocarbons (oil) pollution. She also has a Masters degree in International Law.

I feel like I disappointed her when I gave my jaded ex-lobbyist perception that the current priorities for the Obama Administration were The Economy (stupid !, as President Clinton campaigned),  Afghanistan, health care, then maybe, climate change.  I thought about Steven Covey's quadrants for prioritizing:  urgent/not urgent vs important/not important. Global warming may be important (IT IS!) but not collectively perceived as urgent yet. It will take the Great(er) Communicator President Barack Obama many speeches and press conferences to convince the American people and thus their Congress that time is now, even overdue, for substantive action on climate change legislation.

She mentioned Obama's excellent campaign speeches promising action onclimate change legislation.  I thought of that joke about heaven and hell where hell was golf courses, lobster and steak dinners, strolling violins etc. and heaven was quiet and harps. Something like one was advertising and one was something else. (OK, I can't remember the joke exactly so will edit the blog later..)

We took a 45 minute tour to the Lincoln Memorial, passing where the President was about to light the National Christmas tree! It looks great! Buon Natale!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2 doctors, a lawyer and a Texan

Several more interesting folks I drove today,  Tuesday, usually slow. At the Capitol I picked up a young couple who's family came from Kerala in southern India. a family physician and a radiologist couple. It was right next to the James A. Garfield statue so I had a good story to tell I heard from Stephen Pinker podcast on the mind.

Most historians and medical experts now believe that Garfield probably would have survived his wound had the doctors attending him been more capable.[27] Several inserted their unsterilized fingers into the wound to probe for the bullet, and one doctor punctured Garfield's liver in doing so. This alone would not have caused death as the liver is one of the few organs in the human body that can regenerate itself. However, this physician probably introduced Streptococcus bacteria into the President's body and that caused blood poisoning for which at that time there were no antibiotics.

Guiteau was found guilty of assassinating Garfield, despite his lawyers raising an insanity defense. He insisted that incompetent medical care had really killed the President. Although historians generally agree that poor medical care was an element, it was not a legal defense. Guiteau was sentenced to death, and was executed by hanging on June 30, 1882, in Washington, D.C.

Next, a Texan wanted to go to the Rayburn House Office Building to tell his Congressman why he opposed the health care bill. He paid me to wait 45 minutes, then take him to WWII and VietNam Memorials. He was a paratrooper "jumping out of perfectly good airplanes" in VietNam with the 101st and 82nd Airborne. He is a small businessman and we talked about as a small businessman, success or failure is all the owners fault, the American Way!
Finally, on the way back to the shop, I picked up a a well dressed man and his wife.  Today this man from Minnesota argued before the Supreme Court, suing the government for laws he said were written by Citibank and Visa that allows lawyers to give bad advice on financial matters.  We both loved Mondale.