Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Week to the Academy

Basic Cadets headed out to the US Air Force Academy last Wednesday, and Plebes have trickled in over three days to the US Naval Academy for I-Day, which happened yesterday. US Merchant Marine's Plebe Candidates report next week- after the Independence Day Weekend.

Last Wednesday, my DC Congresswoman Norton held a small reception in a House Committee Room on the Hill. Arriving with half an hour to spare, I found out that I'd be giving a short speech to the audience. So there I am under the statue of Rep. Rayburn scrawling out a list of thank-yous, with my brother chiming in with helpful suggestions. Mission complete in good time. Norton's Naval Academy appointee also found himself writing on short notice. Actually, he gave a good chunk of his speech unscripted, and did a very fine job.

A Fox 5 news camera popped in. Norton gave a talk, which focused on her pet issue, DC's voting rights. The 'keynote' speaker, a 2005 West Point Grad from DC, and the new member of the Congresswoman's selection board, also harped on the topic: He relayed his experience as a member of the Army in Iraq- with no vote in Congress- music to the Congresswoman's ears. He relayed to us an encounter he had with a top-ranking Iraqi official during the planning stage for the first parliamentary election. The West Point Grad let this official know that the half-a-million people in his home city had no vote in their 'parliament'. He said it twice, so that the message was not lost in translation. Says the Iraqi: "No democracy is perfect".
Another perk- us four nominees had our names mentioned in the Congressional Record, and were cited in the local paper, The Northwest Current. The president of the local chapter of the USMMA Alumni Association insisted that we attend the affair on Sunday in Fairfax, VA. Our family accepted the invitation.

With plenty of time to spare afterwards, my family took a walk around the halls of the Rayburn. Near one of the main entrances onto Independence Avenue is ex-Rep. Weiner's office, with sign still next to the office's door. Our send-away reception was not the only social event going on: the opulence of some affairs was over the top. One event was decked with candlelights, lush green tablecloth, and artistically placed bottles of wine. For the record, we had sodas, and cheese and vegetable platters- and a tray of cooked sushi.

Then on Sunday, I attended an alumni association "Welcome Aboard" for the US Merchant Marine Academy at the Westwood Country Club. Rep. Connolly welcomed us to his district, VA-11, and his country club. The banquet hall had panoramic windows overlooking the bustling life of the golf course: carts and all. In half an hour after the buffet brunch, the Rep. spoke on a whole range of topics. Some pertaining directly to the event included his "divinity deferment" from Viet Nam, and the sheer number of Academy nominees he made from his Congressional District, 49, with 26 to West Point. That's the highest number of any District in the US, Connolly reports. Connolly is proud, too, of his five-star rating on Veterans' Affairs issues by a servicemen's organization. He pointed out to the audience that he pushed for full veteran status for Merchant Mariners who encountered hostilities from U-boats "before the Navy got into World War Two". On piracy in the Mediterranean, he reminded the audience that "Thomas Jefferson took care of that 200 years ago; if he could do it then, we can definitely take care of it now". On Libya, Connolly feels that US involvement is a necessary endeavor; however, he believes that it was wrong for Obama to not have consulted Congress earlier. "War; that's the Congress' business". Connolly voted with the majority of Congress for a one-year authorization. He wishes that the authorization was for a shorter term of time, but he notes, "that was what we had on the table". Connolly then opened up to a Q+A session. He is up for re-election next year, as all the Reps. are. On the deficit, he notes that, as a moderate, he believes that to actually get a balanced budget, both cuts and revenue increases are necessary. "Last time Congress balanced the budget, taxes were about 20% of earnings, average. It's down to 15%. If we are serious, we've got to bring it back up to 17% or 18%". He also remarks, "Pray to God we do something by August 2nd".

At both events, at least one person would raise the point of the "fair nomination process" evident in the DC area. Yes; in some parts of the country, Reps. and Senators pick nominees singlehandedly, but around here, where the nominations can get competitive, the job is left to the specialists. The chair of Norton's nominating staff described the task of deciding who gets the nomination: "It comes down to who has the best chance of admissions. It's difficult, and sometimes emotional, but based on our track record, it's effective".

Push ups, Sit ups, Pull ups, and Running: that is my agenda for the next few days.

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