Category Archives: Congress

Recipe: Senate Gruel

A little over a decade ago, I was a fresh-out-of-college kid working the front desk in a Senate office and someone new to “the South.”

Having been used to staying up late at the bar where I had previously worked, coming into the office for an 8:00 a.m. shift was a drastic lifestyle change for me. So, making breakfast was a bit of an afterthought, as I had just hoped to get into the office by at least 7:45 so I could get the office up and running.

Luckily, the U.S. Senate has a cafeteria that’s open early. Before it was privatized, it had a decent buffet for breakfast but with a largely southern flair. Which is where I began my appreciation of grits.

One morning I decided to add some corned beef hash (a favorite of my grandpa’s) to the mix. Then I started adding hot sauce… lots of Texas Pete.

After a few breakfasts I started mixing it all together and calling it the “Senate Gruel.”

It looks disgusting. It’s terrible for you. It is delicious.

Periodically, I make it at home and wanted to share the recipe with you.

Serving Size: One

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 can of corned beef hash
  • 1 serving of grits (usually 3 tbsp of the instant grits)
  • 1 slice American cheese (can use cheddar but it gets stringy)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp of butter or margarine
  • 4 tbsp of Texas Pete hot sauce

Prep:

  1. In cast iron skillet, fry the hash until crispy. (The Senate baked theirs in a tray… which is more time consuming but good for large amounts.)
  2. In a pot, cook the instant grits.
  3. On a plate, place the slice of American cheese on the plate.
  4. Place the grits over the cheese and add butter, salt, and pepper.
  5. Add the corned beef hash, hot sauce, more salt and pepper.
  6. Mix thoroughly.

In Senate, Blackberry Era Officially Over

This is the way the world ends. Not with a clickity keyboard, but with a swipe.

Senate staffers will no longer be issued official Blackberry smartphones.

The reign of the Blackberry lasted a good decade or more in Congress, early on due to the advanced nature of the devices and obsession with email checking. Even when the iPhone and Androids came about, the Blackberry still kept the throne for awhile because typing on those tiny little keys was faster, a mastered skill with which the iPhone could not compete. (This being government, they were slow to adopt other devices and Bring Your Own Device policies.)

Eventually, though, cracks in the dam formed and other devices started eating up Blackberry’s near-exclusive market share. Yet, unlike the rest of the country, which quickly abandoned Blackberry and sent its corporate owner towards the verge of bankruptcy, the devices still endured in zip codes 20510 and 20515. Long battery life, an email heavy focus, and good size (complete with a douchey belt holster) kept this little niche alive in the subterranean halls of the Capitol.

Outside the beltway, the market dried up. Fewer and fewer models were created, and the old models hoarded by Capitol bureaucrats began to dwindle.

The final notice was sent to staffers today.

A pile of Senate Blackberries await secure destruction, 2010.

A pile of Senate Blackberries await secure destruction, 2010.

From: Notice (SAA)
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 3:56 PM
Subject: BlackBerry Discontinuation

This message was sent to Administrative Managers, Chief Clerks, and System Administrators.

BlackBerry Discontinuation

BlackBerry informed Verizon and AT&T that production of all BlackBerry OS 10 devices (Q10, Z10, Z30, Passport, and Classic) has been discontinued. Future carrier order fulfillment will not be guaranteed due to limited remaining stock.

BlackBerry device support will continue for the foreseeable future. BlackBerry is committed to maintaining their support of our devices to include uninterrupted warranty and technical support.

Once we have exhausted our current in-house stock, new device procurements will be limited, while supplies last, to warranty exchanges only.

As of June 29, 2016, our BlackBerry device stock levels are:

RIM Classic Verizon BlackBerry – 275

RIM Z30 Verizon Black BlackBerry – 160

RIM Classic AT&T BlackBerry – 45

RIM Passport AT&T BlackBerry – 45

RIM Z10 AT&T Black BlackBerry – 45

RIM Q10 AT&T Black Blackberry – 40

For offices wishing to make the transition from BlackBerry devices to other platforms, Verizon has agreed to suspend eligibility upgrade requirements for users migrating to Samsung S6 Android devices. Additionally, the $0 16GB iPhone SE has been added to the Technology Catalog, although current eligibility upgrade and mandatory AppleCare+ requirements apply.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Mobile Communications Services.

 


UPDATE: The folks over at Crackberry.com reached out to Blackberry about the Senate’s internal email and the company disputes the email’s claim that Blackberry 10 devices will “cease to be continued.”

Hot Pockets, US International Tax Law, and Corporate Inversions

Here’s a recent appearance on One America News Network where I discuss the global economy, corporate inversions, and everyone’s favorite treat: Hot Pockets.

My Nemesis, the Black Vulture, Comes to D.C.

I hate black vultures, and not because I generally hate birds — I have a professional hatred for black vultures.

Back when I was a hill staffer, constituents contacted the office I worked for through the local agriculture county extension agent complaining about black vultures eating their livestock. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t vultures only eat dead animals? No. Black vultures also eat live ones, especially cute newborns.

They team up in packs, take out the eyes and other aspects of the face of their victim, and boom — dinner is served.

Black vultures are actually protected by a treaty the United States stupidly signed with a bunch of other countries. The logic of course being that we wanted to give these non-endangered violent birds with few (if any) known predators a license to kill other animals across the globe while simultaneously protecting the non-endangered ones that are logos for outdoor clothing companies like Eddie Bauer.

And because it’s a treaty, it’s not easy to fix when the unintended consequences become clear. The Navy discovered this when the nutters at Earth Justice went after them for bombing masked boobies on a small island the U.S. owns. (Yes, really. Masked boobies.)

Coragyps-atratus-002Farmers and ranchers out in the district wanted to comply with the law (read: not go to jail for killing a bird that’s not a Bald Eagle), and asked our office to look into it.

So, I called Fish and Wildlife and asked what the deal was with stopping them from killing livestock. Would FWS come out and capture them? Send them to a vulture foster home? A vulture preserve?

Nope.

The FWS-proposed solution was they could go to a regional office and apply for a permit to kill one black vulture. After killing it, they instruct the rancher to hang it from a tree to scare away the other black vultures. (In retrospect, this sounds kind of racist.) The constituents weren’t pleased with this solution.

Short of withdrawing from the treaty, which won’t likely happen, that left them in kind of a pickle. Killing one of these without a permit can land you in the slammer for six months and a fine of $15,000. I couldn’t say this at the time to the constituents, but I wondered why they just didn’t kill the damn birds. After all, who would miss these things aside from wealthy liberal ornithologist city slickers, bureaucrats, and environmentalists?

It’s not like FWS has roving patrols of meter maids checking on the growing populace of  federally protected violent predators with no real predator to kill them. And it’s the middle of the country.

Anyways, the Washington Post reports that vultures, and by the photograph I’m nearly certain they’re black vultures, are now in Washington, D.C. — on K Street, no less.

I left the hill for the lucrative world of journalism and never heard if the vulture situation back west was really resolved. I emailed the local agriculture rep I once worked with, and he confirmed “We still have them here, just glad to share the over-abundance.”

The only known predators for black vultures are a few species of the eagle. And now that they’re in Washington, perhaps MetroBus can be added to the list of known predators.

It will be interesting to see if the black vultures become a problem in Washington. My guess is they’ll just be the butt of a “lobbyists are vultures” joke until they murder some hipster’s rescue dog at a dog park.

Only then will we hear the outrage.