Our House–In The Middle Of A Mob

Every house has its domestic drama, and the People’s House, better known as the U.S. Capitol, is no exception. But whereas drama at the family home might simply involve raised voices and slamming doors, recent drama at the home of the U.S. Congress involved pepper spray being utilized, shots being fired, and windows being broken. The People’s House found itself in the middle of a mob.

The lyrics to British band Madness’ song “Our House” aptly describe the events of January 6, 2021. (It didn’t take long for the new year to hit the skids, now did it?) The second verse of this pop hit released in 1982 states, “Our house, it has a crowd. There’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud.”

Newsworthy events typically take place at the seat of our country’s legislative branch, but they are normally verbal battles between sparring political opponents. A mob overrunning the premises is something new and quite disturbing. And the buzz about what happened is really loud.

The People’s House, of course, is nothing like the house you or I live in. For one thing, it is way older than any of our residences. The original structure was completed in 1800 and has undergone a number of expansions and renovations.

As you likely did not learn in school in American History, the Capitol Building’s expansion accomplished in the 1850’s utilized slaves for construction labor. Yes, the Northerners wanted to make sure this job was completed before they invaded the South to do away with the terrible institution of slavery. Apparently it was do as we say and not as we do….

The sheer size of this “house” distinguishes the Capitol from the residence of John Q. Citizen. The Capitol Building, a National Historic Landmark, is the 5th tallest structure in Washington, D.C., and its grounds cover approximately 274 acres. Its location would warm a realtor’s heart concerned with location, location, location. The People’s House is situated on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall.

And you think you get tired of visitors to your house? You’ve got nothing on the legislative branch. Three to five million people from around the world visit the People’s House each year. Nevertheless, the numbers have plunged since the Capitol Building has been closed to the public due to the pandemic.

The uninvited mob which rudely and illegally entered the People’s House on January 6th will, of course, unexpectedly add to the number of visitors in 2021. An accurate number of those who “stopped by” for a visit that day cannot be obtained. Even a reliable estimate of the unruly crowd is difficult because aerial photos are not permitted in Washington, D.C. due to security concerns. And, after January 6th, I’d say the security concerns are way bigger than folks imagined they were.

While Americans were shocked at the violence which unfolded on January 6th, this event was not the first time that violence has touched the People’s House. In 1814, just a few years after the building’s completion, it was partially burned by the British during the War of 1812.

But that’s a long time ago, right? Well, fast forward to March 1, 1954. On that date four Puerto Rican nationalists attended a debate on an immigration bill by the House of Representatives. In a desire to publicize their desire for Puerto Rican independence from the U.S., they shot 30 rounds from semi-automatic pistols from a visitors’ balcony in the House chamber. Yes, they definitely got everyone’s attention. Five representatives were wounded, but thankfully all recovered.

Sounds like the People’s House needs to have some security, huh? Perhaps a big dog like some homeowners? The security in place is the U.S. Capitol Police, a force established in 1828 with a currently authorized sworn strength of over 2,000 officers. (NOTE: That number is down since two officers died as the result of the events of January 6th.) The mission statement for the Capitol Police is to “Protect the congress…so it can fulfill its constitutional and legislative responsibilities in a safe, secure and open environment.” That was apparently Mission Impossible on January 6th.

The Capitol Police were expecting protestors on that date, but they were not prepared for the size of the crowd. Reports indicate that the crowd was likely double what was anticipated per FBI reports. Accordingly, the People’s House Protectors were caught off guard.

The Capitol Police knew company was coming, i.e., people participating in the planned “Save America March.” Barriers were in place around the perimeter, and riot gear was handy. President Trump addressed the crowd on the Ellipse that day–the day Congress was meeting to count the results of the Electoral College vote and to certify Biden’s victory in the presidential election. After his speech, the crowd marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building.

And the rest, as they say, is (sad) history. Barriers were breached and rioters forced their way into the People’s House. They took the Senate Chamber, physical altercations occurred between mob members and the Capitol Police, shots were fired, and gazillions of selfies were taken. The occupation lasted several hours during which time offices, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, were entered and looted. Talk about a messy House!

Because of the insanity in the nation’s capital, the mayor of Washington, D.C. declared a 12-hour curfew beginning at 6:00 p.m. Undaunted, Congress reconvened around 8:00 p.m. to continue their legislative duties. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the reassembled legislators saying: “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: You did not win. Violence never wins….And this is still the People’s House…Let’s get back to work.”

The Congress, as well as the entire nation, has some tough work to do. The country is clearly a house divided. Getting our house in order will take more than replacing the broken windows in the People’s House. The house in “Our House” may have been in the middle of a street, but the People’s House was in the middle of a mob and is now in the middle of a national crisis.

Just WONDER-ing:

Had you heard the U.S. Capitol referred to as the People’s House before? Have you ever visited the Capitol Building? Did you think violence like what occurred was possible in this country?

Coronavirus Crisis in the Capital–Washington Isn’t Well

With less than a month to go until the presidential election, one would think the upcoming vote would be the biggest headline. Nah! Nothing is normal in 2020; a health topic has been all the buzz. Sure COVID-19’s old news, but there’s a twist now. The high and mighty in our nation’s capital, the Commander in Chief, his staff members/aides, FLOTUS, members of Congress, and the top military brass, have fallen victim to coronavirus. Washington isn’t well.

The D.C. coronavirus crisis started off with a bang when President Trump announced his positive diagnosis via Twitter at 12:54 a.m. last Friday. Call me old school, but I’d have thought such a momentous piece of news would rate a press conference in broad daylight. But, nevertheless, the word got out and spread like–take your pick here in 2020–California wildfires or, fittingly, the coronavirus itself.

By Friday night, President Trump had developed a fever and his blood oxygen level had “dropped rapidly,” requiring him to be given supplemental oxygen at the White House. No ambulance was called for Trump’s transportation to the hospital though. This COVID sufferer is the Commander in Chief, so a helicopter, Marine One, was summoned to fly him to his medical care destination. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Trump’s Covid Copter.

The medical destination for the mask-clad president was Walter Reed, a tri-service (Air Force, Army, and Navy) military medical center in Bethesda, Maryland. While the facility’s official name is Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (“WRNMMC”), it is more commonly known simply as “Walter Reed” after the yellow fever researcher. This facility routinely treats presidents and vice presidents in a secured and autonomous ward. A presidential office is available offering a sitting room, kitchen, conference room, hospital bedroom, and an office for the White House Chief of Staff (assuming that individual isn’t down for the count with COVID and unable to work).

Speculation was rampant as to the president’s condition after his admission to Walter Reed. He is, after all, at higher risk due to his age (74) and weight (just over the threshold for obesity for his height). If the Physician to the President (Navy Commander Sean Conley, D.O.) and the White House’s world-class medical resources weren’t enough to handle the situation, there was cause for concern. Would the president be able to carry out his executive duties or would the 25th Amendment be utilized to designate VP Mike Pence to take over for his boss?

Dr. Conley gave press briefings, but they didn’t provide as much detail as enquiring minds wanted. The press pressed for for further information but were rebuffed. The president must be hiding something, right? Not according to Conley who explained that doctor-patient confidentiality had not been waived. Donald Trump may be the president and live in a fishbowl, but he is a patient like anyone else and entitled to some privacy. Sorry, Charlie! No one’s getting ahold of the president’s lung scans.

Medical updates did reveal Dr. Conley’s patient had been drinking while at Walter Reed–an experimental Regeron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail that is. President Trump downed one 8 gram dose of this so-called cocktail which supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus and rid the body of it. The Commander in Chief also started a five day course of the expensive (think about $520 or so per vial) antiviral remdesivir used with moderately to severely ill patients and shown to speed recovery. This drug curbs the virus’ ability to multiply.

Additionally, the president underwent steroid therapy. Unlike athletes, he wasn’t trying to bulk up; Dexamethasone was given to tamp down on possible dangerous inflammation. This cheap and widely available steroid drug has been around for decades, but it is usually reserved for patients deemed severe or critical cases. In this case it was used because it was critical to get the president better and back to the White House to run the country.

The COVID hospital drama ended Monday evening when the president was released and flew home aboard Marine One. But of course the drama continued thereafter because opinions were offered by many that President Trump had been sent home too early. Home for him, of course, is the White House, which offers “world-class” medical resources and a personal physician unlike the home of your average COVID patient.

Why should the president have all the COVID fun though? The high and mighty in Washington began following suit and testing positive. Forget the D.C. “A” list. There’s now a lengthy “C” list in the nation’s capital, and that “C” stands for COVID. Joining President Trump as COVID patients, among others, are his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the Republican National Committee Chief Ronna McDaniel, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett politely declined since she’s already participated over the summer.

It’s not just politicians who are on the “C” list either. The military brass didn’t want to be left out. Taken captive by this unseen enemy were the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Millay, the Army Chief of Staff James McConville, the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, the chief of the National Guard Gen. Daniel Hokanson, and the naval operations chief Adm. Michael Gilday. Sounds like a lot of “stars” are under the gun from this rampant virus.

Notice how the country has come to a screeching halt with all the “C” listers out of action? No? Me either. That’s a good thing since the Russians are surely watching the evening news on our major networks and keenly aware the top honchos are out of the office. But the C-listers are still minding the store even while sick–just remotely. Washington’s not well, but are country is still up and running.

Just WONDER-ing:

How much medical information about a sitting president are Americans entitled to have? Where do you draw the line between patient confidentiality and the public’s right to know? Was it inevitable influential individuals running our country would at some point come down with COVID?

And Then There Were 51 — Statehood For D.C. Ahead?

COVID-19 may not be the only thing that rocks Americans’ lives in 2020. What if the makeup of our United States changed? Fasten your seat belts because a 51st state is now being considered by Congress. Could we see the first addition of a state since Alaska and Hawaii were added in 1959?

What? You hadn’t heard of this development? Trust me. Neither COVID-19 nor the possible addition of a 51st state is a hoax. But having to figure out where to put another star on the beloved Stars and Stripes apparently isn’t as newsworthy to the networks as “breaking news” about the latest number of confirmed coronavirus cases or deaths. With all that bad news being reported, the possibility having a new state join the union should be a distracting and welcome story. Let’s check it out.

On June 26, 2020, the House passed the aptly named H.R. 51, also known as the Washington, D.C. Admission Act of 2020, which proposes to make D.C. the 51st state. Only the new state’s name wouldn’t be the District of Columbia because, well, it wouldn’t be a district anymore but a state. How does Washington, Douglass Commonwealth grab you? This name honors both our first president, George Washington, and former slave, abolitionist, and D.C. resident of many years, Frederick Douglass. Nice thought, but that name seems too much of a mouthful to me. If would likely end up being referred to as WDC for convenience. WDYT? (What do you think?)

This 51st state would not only have a new name but new territory. Out of the current D.C.,  a small federal district, to be known as “The Capital,” would be carved. Monuments (at least those still standing at the time), the White House, the Capitol, the National Mall, and federal buildings would not be contained in Washington Douglass Commonwealth–er, WDC..

So why does D.C. need to be a state? Isn’t it enough that it is the seat of our nation’s government and a huge tourist destination? The short answer for some proponents? TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, a phrase which appears on D.C. license plates.

As of July 2019, approximately 706,000 people lived in D.C., a population which is higher than the states of Wyoming and Vermont. Residents of the District are required to pay taxes. And pay taxes they do since D.C. has a higher per capita income than any state. But D.C. residents have no voting representatives in Congress. Eleanor Holmes Norton serves as their delegate in the House, so she can speak on the D.C. residents’ behalf, but she cannot vote.

Other proponents of statehood for D.C. see it as an issue of racial injustice. Over 46% of the District’s population is black. Not allowing these residents to have representation in Congress, they claim, is oppressive. I’m assuming the other 54% of the residents, regardless of race, aren’t happy about their lack of representation either. Needless to say, statehood is strongly favored in the District. A November 2016 statehood referendum resulted in 86% of the voters backing the leap from district to state.

President Trump and Republicans oppose statehood for D.C. They see the push for the District’s statehood as a political issue. But then, isn’t EVERYTHING considered in D.C. these days a political issue? D.C. is overwhelmingly Democratic, having only ever elected Democratic mayors. So Republicans view the attempt to make D.C. a state as merely a power grab by Democrats to add 1 representative and 1 senator to the Democratic tally. Unsurprisingly, the vote on H.R. 51 was mainly along party lines. The bill passed the Democratic controlled House by a 232-180 vote with no Republicans voting for it.

But the legislation has a long and uphill way to go to become law. Next it heads to the Republican-controlled Senate where it is likely DOA. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell opposes the legislation, and senators are not expected to even consider it. Even if, miracle of miracles, the Senate also passed the legislation, President Trump has already stated that he would veto it.

Even if statehood for D.C. fails to pass this term, proponents have made progress. A similar bill proposed in 1993 failed. The June 26th vote was the first time a D.C. statehood bill passed either chamber of Congress. Maybe in the next 27 years Democrats can round up a few more votes to obtain passage in both the House and the Senate.

Politics aside, history does not support making the nation’s capital a state. The Founding Fathers were wary of giving too much power to a state by allowing it to permanently host the seat of the national government. They wanted the governmental seat to be independent of any state. Accordingly Article I, Section 8 allowed Congress to create a district to become the seat of government; that district was to be governed by Congress.

The District ultimately created with land ceded by Virginia and Maryland was named after Christopher Columbus (who’s apparently not P.C. these days). Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were at odds as to where the capital was to be located. Sadly, this disagreement did not make the cut to appear in “Hamilton,” so the average citizen isn’t familiar with it.

One solution proposed to D.C.’s Taxation Without Representation issue has been proposed by Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican representing Maryland. If D.C. residents want to vote, they can return the land where they are living to Maryland who donated it for the nation’s capital to be created. A new Douglass County, Maryland would result and VOILA’,  current D.C. residents could then vote. Hmm. That’s going from one end of the spectrum to the other. One minute D.C. is going to become the 51st state; now they could become merely a county in a rather small state of the Union.

There are some things Americans just don’t know such as when this pandemic will finally be behind us. But it’s a pretty safe bet that redesigning the Stars and Stripes won’t be on the country’s 2020 agenda. Even if a 51st state isn’t going to join the first 50, the possibility is an interesting topic of conversation. Certainly it is way more interesting than hearing ad nauseum about COVID-19. But, the media begs to disagree…

Just WONDER-ing:

Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? Is adding a 51st state, whether or not it is D.C., a good idea? If you don’t like the proposed name of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, what do you suggest for the new state’s name? Is it fair that D.C. residents are taxed without representation in Congress? Is life always fair?

 

 

 

Where To Go? Embassy Row!

 

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Not only is Washington, D.C., our country’s capital, but it is a hot tourist destination. In 2017, the area set a new record with 22.8 million visitors. Top tourist sites are predictable–the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Lincoln Memorial. Been there, done that. So what do I want to see when I head to D.C. this weekend? Can’t wait to check off visiting Embassy Row from my bucket list.

Embassy Row isn’t a single building or monument, and you won’t find it marked on a map. It is a nickname for a section of Massachusetts Avenue in NW D.C. where numerous embassies and diplomatic missions are concentrated. The area is bookended by the north side of the U.S. Naval Observatory (the Vice President’s home) and Scott Circle. In a city known for political double talk, it is refreshing to find an accurate name for something. Embassy Row consists of, well, a row of embassies.

And exactly what is an embassy? It is an office or residence of an ambassador, someone sent on a diplomatic mission by one country to another country. As a rule, embassies are located in a country’s capital city; thus, ambassadors to the U.S. can be found in embassies in our capital, Washington, D.C. Consulates or trade missions can be found elsewhere.

Being the world power that it is, the United States has diplomatic representation from almost every nation. Therefore, over 175 embassies or diplomatic missions can be found in Washington, D.C. Political upheaval overseas has increased the number of embassies in our nation’s capital. Over 20 chanceries (embassy business offices) have been added since 1991 due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia.

Cuba, Iran, and North Korea do not have full diplomatic representation with the U.S.. Thus, those countries do not have an embassy here. North Korea is probably too busy building its nuclear capability to be concerned about building an embassy in the U.S. anyway.

Although a large number of embassies are located in D.C., less than half of them.can be found along Embassy Row. So why do I want to go to this area? In the first place, Embassy Row is an impressive and historic location. It is so historic, in fact, that it is protected by the Massachusetts Avenue Historical District.

In the late 19th century and the early 20th century, Massachusetts Avenue was THE residential address to have. Mansions were erected on that street to house D.C.’s political and social elite. As the result of the Great Depression, many property owners on what we call Embassy Row today were forced to sell their homes due to financial struggles..

But Millionaire’s Row quickly turned into Embassy Row. The British Embassy was built on Massachusetts Avenue in 1925, and the Japanese Embassy in 1931. Many other countries followed suit. Some countries opted to move into the existing mansions and transform them into embassies rather than building a new structure.

Tourists may take a walking tour to view the impressive architecture of the historic mansions used as embassies. Adding to the fun is trying to determine to what country a particular embassy belongs. The task is easier for some buildings than for others. A statue of Winston Churchill with a cigar flashing a V sign is a dead giveaway for the British embassy. Likewise, the statue of Mahatma Ghandi in front of India’s embassy screams “India.”

Being the advance planner that I am, I’ve already reviewed online maps of Embassy Row. These maps helpfully provide the street lineup of embassies with the street number and nation’s flag identified. I’m definitely checking out #2220 (Guatemala–location of my first overseas mission trip), #2234 (Ireland–home of my maternal ancestors), #2525 (Turkey–evokes memories of a wonderful Mediterranean cruise I took), and #3100 (United Kingdom–Long Live The Queen! Age 93 and counting…..).

Embassy Row is also a draw for me because it can be a magnet for protests. American citizens aren’t typically able to go to a foreign country to express opposition to its policies, but they may be able to get to the country’s U.S. embassy to sound off. Until its retirement, a giant inflatable blue whale was often seen on Embassy Row when Greenpeace staged protests against foreign country’s environmentally unfriendly policies. The Vatican’s embassy is the target of an ongoing multiyear protest by a molestation victim decrying the Catholic Church’s alleged cover up of pedophile priests.

I am one tourist who would enjoy observing freedom of speech being exercised to send a message to a foreign country. Protest scenes allow me the opportunity for  great candid shots to post on social media too.

Seeing Embassy Row in person has been a dream of mine ever since I read the murder mystery, Murder On Embassy Row., written by Margaret Truman Daniel, the only child of Pres. Harry S. Truman. Talk about someone who had a behind the scenes look about the goings on in Washington, Ms. Daniel is your woman. I want to see the words from the pages of her book mentioning these embassies come to life before my tourist eyes.

Finally, I want to go to Embassy Row because I am intrigued with the world of intrigue. I’m a huge James Bond fan and have read numerous spy novels. If foreign diplomats are on Embassy Row, you can’t tell me there’s not some spying going on. Why, I’ll bet some of the Secret Service agents  tasked with protecting the embassies are secretly spies as well. Perhaps I should wear a trench coat and sunglasses while touring Embassy Row to get me in the mood for the area.

As I am checking out the Embassy Row embassies, I’ll be keeping an eagle eye out for diplomatic license plates on the cars I see. The State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions issues these licenses whose  initial letter is  “D” or “S.”. I’m guessing “D” is for diplomat and “S” is for spy. The next two letters on the plate indicate the country. I’ll be on high alert if I spot a license plate that reads “S4RU.” (Spy For Russia?)

The Russian Embassy is not, however, on Embassy Row. It’s located on Wisconsin Avenue instead. Perhaps the Russians are trying to keep their distance from 007’s Brits who are over on Massachusetts Avenue.

I may not run into the Spy Who Loved Me while checking out Embassy Row, but I’ll love being in an area where stories of intrigue have been set, real life drama is played out, and freedom of speech is alive and well. While the U.S. government conducts business in Washington, D.C., embassies of almost 200 other countries do business do too. It’s a small world after all, especially on Embassy Row.

JUST WONDER-ing: Have you ever heard of Embassy Row? Were you aware that so many other countries have a base of operations in our nation’s capital? Do you believe the espionage is occurring there or is that just something that happens in a James Bond movie?