Here in DC, the government is bumbling along in its usual fashion. Everyone is excited about the next session of Congress, which, to numerologists' delight, is the 111th. To commemorate the occasion, the House Administration Committee issued a snazzy orientation book for the new members, and to add gravitas to the proceedings, announced the new session with bold, Roman Numerals:
In keeping with a long tradition of congressional incompetence, everybody involved failed to realize that the Roman Numerals for 111 are CXI. The above illustration, printed on hundreds of orientation booklets, announces the third congress.
Local DC politicos are diving into the growing chaos regarding the Obama Inauguration, which is turning out to be the Event of the Millennium, even as the Millennium is barely 9 years old. Nobody can get a hotel room, and those who booked reservations months ago are being informed that the price quoted back then is no longer valid. Instead, visitors are expected to pay five or ten times the going rate. And to make the week in January even more festive, the DC Council has just passed Emergency Legislation allowing bars and restaurants to remain open 24 hours from 1/17-1/20/09. Alcohol can be served an additional three hours each day (until 5 AM), to let revelers get really snockered.
Oh, and the DC Metro System, which runs the subway, has thrown up its hands regarding handling the several million visitors expected on the Big Day. They have already added all the cars and employees they have at their disposal. Their advice to those making their way to the Mall to watch the Inauguration?
One more Inaugural item: the city will be jam packed with high-profile parties, but none will be higher profile than Oprah's Bash, though she still has not announced where it will be. She has, however, rented the Opera House at the Kennedy Center, which seats 2350 people, for one day. She will film at least one, and possibly more, programs from the site.
A couple of tidbits lately proved, yet again, that there is currently nobody at the wheel at the White House. Laura Bush put the call out to all the nation's congressional districts to contribute a Christmas ornament to be hung on the Official White House Christmas Tree. The submission from a certain district in Seattle was a bit subversive. The ornament was decorated with red, white, and blue swirls, in the midst of which was embedded text which saluted Rep. Jim McDermott's attempts to impeach George W. Bush. Nobody at the White House took notice, and the ornament would have been hung on the tree if the artist hadn't spilled the beans to a local newspaper. The ball was rejected, and Mrs. Bush's press secretary Sally McDonough sniffed that this was not the time or place for such sentiments.
That press secretary had a busy week. She also had to explain this little faux-pas: the Bushes invited a group of Jewish leaders to a Hanukkah reception next month. The invitation was a picture of a snow-covered White House, with a Clydesdale hauling a giant Christmas tree up to the front door:
Happy Hanukkah, Hebrews!
Here's how we Christians do it!
One non-DC item caught my eye this week. Remember back in the 80s, when dictator Manuel Noriega dodged American troops by seeking sanctuary at the Vatican Embassy in Panama? The military commanders surrounded the compound with huge stereo speakers, and blasted the embassy with rock music. The papal nuncio who was affording Noriega refuge bitterly condemned the Americans for the psychological torture.
I was reminded of that episode when I heard about the judge in Fort Lupton, Colorado, who sentenced teen-agers cited for disturbing the peace in a similar way. Rather than using rock music, the judge ordered offenders to listen to an hour of Barry Manilow.