Freshmen House Dems cut different paths across Capitol Hill
By LAURIE KELLMAN
Friday, January 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — One group went to the White House with Republicans to talk about border security and reopening shuttered parts of the government.
Another, led by social media stars, marched around Capitol Hill in a widely-posted but futile search for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — hashtag #WheresMitch.
The Democrats’ two paths within a 12-hour stretch this week demonstrated the dramatic differences emerging among members of the historic freshman class of House Democrats that — together — helped flip the House from Republican control in November’s elections. The celebrity-studded group includes a record number of women, a new crop of veterans and diversity never before seen in Congress.
But the freshmen never were a monolith, and they’re not acting like one now. Two weeks into their congressional careers, with a partial government shutdown at hand President Donald Trump in the White House, they’re cutting different paths on Capitol Hill.
“There’s a sorting process,” said George Miller, a retired California congressman who was one of the reform-minded “Watergate babies” elected to the House in the aftermath of President Richard Nixon’s resignation. It quickly became clear that campaigning and governing require different skill sets, he said, with learning how to operate effectively on Capitol Hill key among them. “You’ve got to make new friends, you’ve got to make decisions about trusting (other people’s) judgment, you gotta make decisions about what’s good for you and about what’s good for the caucus.”
There’s evidence that these choices and more are leading lawmakers who accomplished so much together into organizing themselves according to politics, experience and especially governing style. Policy questions over such campaign-friendly ideas as “Medicare for all” and a “green new deal” for climate change pose other potential areas for disagreements. And where some freshmen are emphasizing their newness to Washington, a healthy portion of their classmates are pointing to their long careers in the military and government as they cut a more traditional path in office.
Wednesday alone provided a notable example. Perhaps the most famous new lawmakers — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — led the second protest march in as many days from the House to the Senate to personally urge McConnell to help end the partial shutdown. They didn’t find him — but they left contact information in his office, were admitted to the floor of the Senate and at one point had trouble navigating back to the House.
The forays weren’t a bust: An accompanying media horde recorded the whole thing, lending it a reality show quality that likely burnished their brand of storm-the-palace authenticity.
Not marching along was another group of freshman Democrats who are taking a more traditional approach to their congressional careers, some of them informed by their prior service in government and the military.
The day’s big media moment for Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., for example, came from an event that wasn’t even on-camera. She was among the freshmen Democrats and Republicans invited to the White House to talk to Trump about the effect the shuttered agencies were having on constituents. Spanberger, a former CIA agent who voted against Nancy Pelosi for speaker, refused to even confirm she had been invited while the event was being organized, and tweeted about it afterward with emphasis on her experience.
“As a former federal employee, I know the hardships our public servants face as they work without pay or are furloughed,” she wrote.
Other freshman members who came to Congress from government careers tweeted similar sentiments.
Tweeted Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.: “I know the impact of a shutdown — back in 2013 during my time at HHSgov, I was furloughed for about three weeks without pay.”
Another split has opened in freshmen ranks over the politics of any talk of impeaching Trump. Hours after the new Congress was sworn in Jan. 3, Tlaib was recorded telling a friendly interest group that “We’re gonna impeach the (bleep),” referring to Trump. More than the expletive, her vow to impeach Trump incensed Democrats who had labored to abstain from any such talk until special counsel Robert Mueller reports on his investigation into Russian election meddling. As the story overtook the party’s messaging on the government shutdown the next day, Tlaib took what she described as an “intense” round of schooling from veteran Democrats about the consequences of speaking bluntly while a member of Congress. Tlaib said she was sorry for the distraction.
Other freshmen strove to avoid commenting on the upheaval largely because they think such talk right now would detract from their mission to preserve national health care and other priorities they had campaigned on. Some even went so far as to say they’d prefer Trump as their foil to Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor and House member who would be president in the so-far unlikely event that the House impeaches Trump and the Senate removes him from office.
“That guy,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said of Pence, “knows what he’s doing.”
Despite the emerging differences, there remains some overlap between groups, as well as mutual admiration and learning. Underwood, for example, was among those marching to find McConnell. So was Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., who also is a liaison for the freshman class to Democratic leaders. And though two freshmen who are military veterans — New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill and Pennsylvania’s Chrissy Houlahan — were assigned leadership roles in the New Democrat Coalition, they’re leading two dozen other freshmen, including some marchers.
On Thursday morning, Ocasio-Cortez taught a class to other members about how to use Twitter more effectively, and why. In return, House Democratic White James Clyburn taught her something.
“Now Majority Whip Clyburn is teaching me what all the bells mean in the Capitol,” she tweeted with a laughing-face emoticon.
Could Dems’ 2020 nominee be someone you’ve never heard of?
By SARA BURNETT
Friday, January 18
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — At 36, Pete Buttigieg is just over the minimum age required to be president of the United States. Outside South Bend, Indiana, the Rust Belt community where he’s been mayor since age 29, few people know his name. Those who know it struggle to pronounce it. (It’s BOO’-tah-juhj.)
None of that has deterred Buttigieg — a Democrat, Rhodes scholar and Navy veteran known to most people as “Mayor Pete” — from contemplating a 2020 presidential bid against a crowd of much better-known lawmakers with more experience and more money.
He’s among a number of potential candidates who believe the 2016 and 2018 elections showed that voters are looking for fresh faces and that the old rules of politics, in which lawmakers toil for years in statehouses or in Congress before aspiring to higher office, may no longer apply. They’re benefiting from Democrats’ fears about running another member of the party’s old guard against President Donald Trump in 2020.
The group includes Julian Castro, the 44-year-old former San Antonio mayor, and Tulsi Gabbard, the 37-year-old congresswoman from Hawaii, who’ve already said they’re running. Yet to decide is perhaps the biggest breakout star of the midterm elections, former three-term Rep. Beto O’Rourke, 46, who ran a tougher-than-expected race against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, a 38-year-old Iowa native, has also been spending time in the state with the nation’s first caucuses.
They would provide several potential “firsts” in what’s already shaping up to be an unusually diverse field. Castro could become the first Latino to win his party’s nomination, while Buttigieg — who married his husband last year — would be the first openly gay nominee from a major political party.
“I think most people are thinking: ‘Why not?’ They think all the rules have been broken, that anybody can run,” said Buttigieg, who has said he’ll announce his decision on whether to run for president soon. “I think some of the rules have been broken, but there’s only one way to find out which ones.”
There’s no question these relative newcomers face extremely long odds, running in a field that could include heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Also in the mix are more than a half-dozen U.S. senators.
Critics question whether people such as Buttigieg and Castro are entirely serious or whether they’re trying to position themselves for a Cabinet position or maybe just trying to sell more of their books. (Castro’s came out last fall; Buttigieg’s is due for release next month.)
But these upstart candidacies aren’t being ignored as they once would’ve been.
The 2018 election helped break that mold, as a diverse group of hopefuls — many running for their first political office — fueled Democrats’ takeback of the House. Turnout among voters ages 18 to 29 increased to 31 percent, its highest level in a midterm election in a quarter century, according to a Tufts University voting analysis.
Buttigieg raised his national profile when he left his day job to serve as a lieutenant with the Navy Reserve in Afghanistan in 2014, and again with an unsuccessful 2017 bid for Democratic National Committee chairman. President Barack Obama mentioned him post-2016 as a politician to watch. (U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, another possible 2020 candidate, was another.) O’Rourke used social media in 2018 to build a name — and raise millions — far outside Texas. Next month he’ll sit for an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
“Certainly the results of 2018 made candidates like Pete (Buttigieg) think ‘There’s a place for me in there,’” said Doug House, a longtime Democratic county chairman from Rock Island, Illinois, along the Iowa-Illinois border.
Buttigieg, who turns 37 on Saturday, says there’s potential for younger voters to gravitate toward a younger candidate. He says he’s also had strong support from older voters, who helped him easily win two terms.
Older voters were “a big part of how I got elected here,” he says while eating lunch at a cafe tucked inside South Bend’s indoor farmers market, one of the sites he says have helped bring life back to the city of about 100,000 people. The city, which neighbors the University of Notre Dame, was hit hard by the decline of manufacturing, dating back to the closing of the Studebaker plant in 1963. Now that campus is home to a technology park.
His parents both worked at Notre Dame, but he left town to attend Harvard in part because he believed people who said there was no future in South Bend.
Buttigieg argues that, as a younger candidate, he brings a forward-looking view to politics and a personal awareness that the consequences of climate change or huge deficits will be more than theoretical.
“You just have a certain mindset based on the fact that — to put it a little bluntly — you plan to be here in 2050,” he said.
He talks about being part of a generation that’s supplied most of the troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he says there are advantages to not being the star candidate right out of the gate.
“The longer you can go into this process without being famous, the more you can drive around in your Chevy and say ‘hi’ to people,” said Buttigieg, who drives a Chevy Cruze.
House got to know Buttigieg last year when the mayor filled in for Biden as speaker at an annual gathering of Illinois Democrats.
Afterward, people in the crowd of 3,000 “said time and time again they came to the event very interested in seeing an important, historic person in our party — Joe Biden — and what they saw was the future of our party,” House said.
Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.
What a 16th-century mystic can teach us about making good decisions
January 18, 2019
Author: Annmarie Cano, Professor of Psychology and Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Success, Wayne State University
Disclosure statement: Annmarie Cano does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Wayne State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Decision-making is a complex process. As individuals, working through our daily lives, we often take a number of shortcuts that may not always serve us well. For example, we make impulsive decisions when stressed or allow others to make them for us, at times with disappointing or disastrous consequences.
But most of us can do better. Among the many decision-making methods for life’s big decisions, one that stands out is from an early 16th-century soldier-turned-mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
As a clinical psychologist, I first became acquainted with Ignatian discernment during an internship program in spirituality and have found it useful to incorporate it in my research on mindfulness and other reflective practices.
Ignatius uses the language of faith, but, I believe, anyone can apply his method to make more informed decisions.
Who was Ignatius?
Ignatius, baptized Iñigo, was born into a noble family in the Basque area of Spain in 1493. After suffering a grievous leg wound during a battle with the French that affected his health for the rest of his life, Ignatius lay in bed for months reading and reflecting on his situation.
He realized that pursuing worldly honor was not as fulfilling as doing the work of God. During the next year and half of reflection and prayer, he experienced a profound spiritual conversion with spiritual insights that would form the basis of “Spiritual Exercises,” a program of prayerful self-examination aimed at developing a deeper relationship with God.
He decided to serve God by becoming a priest and with two of his University of Paris colleagues, was given approval by the Vatican in 1540 to found the Society of Jesus also known as the Jesuits. The Jesuits are known for their work in education, with a network of schools and colleges, and for running guided retreats.
Perhaps lesser known is the fact that Ignatius also developed a method of discernment or decision-making that is still relevant today and that can be applied by people of all faiths and adapted to those who are not religious.
1. Rely on reason and feelings
Ignatius advises creating a list, but also takes it a step further by urging people to listen to their feelings as they consider the pros and cons for each option.
Emotions act as compass points to one’s deepest desires. So, he asks individuals to consider: Do some pros or cons stand out because they bring you a sense of peace, joy or hope? Or feelings of dread, anxiety or despair?
He advises probing the origin of the feelings to find out if they come, for example, from desires for power or greed, fear of what others may think, a desire to do good or to be selfless.
Ignatius teaches that freedom from attachment to a particular choice or outcome is essential. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step, even if you can’t see the whole staircase.”
Ignatius also advises that individuals share their deliberations with a confidant, advice that he followed when making his own decisions. Modern psychological science too has found that the process of sharing emotions with others helps make sense of our thoughts and feelings.
He also urged people to make decisions for the “greater glory of God.” How can non-religious people use this advice? I argue they can consider how their decisions will affect the vulnerable, the poorest and the most marginalized.
2. Imaginative reflection
Ignatius offers three imaginative exercises if no clear choice emerges:
• Imagine that a friend comes to you with the same situation. They describe their choices, pros and cons, and their thoughts and feelings about these proposals. What would you advise them?
• Imagine that you are on your deathbed. Looking back at your life, and assuming you made the decision in question, how do you view it from that perspective?
• Imagine a conversation with the divine. Those who do not believe in a God could have an imaginary conversation with someone they loved and trusted and who has passed away. What does this person say to you about your options? Would they be pleased, disappointed or neutral about your decision?
Imaginative reflections like these offer clarity to decision-making by providing another perspective to the decision at hand.
3. Seek confirmation
Ignatius advises individuals to act on reason, feeling confident that they have invested their time and energy to make a good choice. But he also says that people should seek out additional information to see if reason confirms the choice. The emotions they feel following a decision, such as peace, freedom, joy, love or compassion, might give an indication if it is the right choice.
In today’s hurried world, a 16th-century Catholic mystics’ advice may seem quaint or his process tedious. However, many modern psychological approaches confirm the value of such reflective practices.
Reflections from a Nobel winner: Scientists need time to make discoveries
January 13, 2019
Author: Donna Strickland, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo
Disclosure statement: Donna Strickland does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Waterloo provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA. University of Waterloo provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA-FR.
Since the announcement that I won the Nobel Prize in physics for chirped pulse amplification, or CPA, there has been a lot of attention on its practical applications.
It is understandable that people want to know how it affects them. But as a scientist, I would hope society would be equally interested in fundamental science. After all, you can’t have the applications without the curiosity-driven research behind it. Learning more about science — science for science’s sake — is worth supporting.
Gérard Mourou, my co-recipient of the Nobel Prize, and I developed CPA in the mid-1980s. It all started when he wondered if we could increase laser intensity by orders of magnitude — or by factors of a thousand. He was my doctoral supervisor at the University of Rochester back then. Mourou suggested stretching an ultrashort pulse of light of low energy, amplifying it and then compressing it. As the graduate student, I had to handle the details.
A goal to revolutionize laser physics
The goal was to revolutionize the field of high-intensity laser physics, a fundamental area of science. We wanted the laser to show us how high-intensity light changes matter, and how matter affects light in this interaction.
It took me a year to build the laser. We proved that we could increase laser intensity by orders of magnitude. In fact, CPA led to the most intense laser pulses ever recorded. Our findings changed the world’s understanding of how atoms interact with high-intensity light.
It was about a decade before practical uses common today eventually came into view.
Many practical applications
Because the high-intensity pulses are short, the laser only damages the area where it’s applied. The result is precise, clean cuts that are ideal for transparent materials. A surgeon can use CPA to slice a patient’s cornea during laser eye surgery. It cleanly cuts the glass parts in our cell phones.
Scientists are taking what we know about high-intensity lasers and are working on a way to use the most intense CPA lasers to accelerate protons.
Hopefully, one day these accelerated particles will help surgeons remove brain tumors that they can’t today. In the future, CPA lasers might remove space junk by pushing it out of our orbit and to the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up and not collide with active satellites.
In many cases, the practical applications lag several years or even decades behind the original findings.
Albert Einstein created the equations for the laser in 1917, but wasn’t until 1960 that Theodore Maiman first demonstrated the laser. Isidor Rabi first measured nuclear magnetic resonance in 1938. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1944 for his research, which led to the invention of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. The first MRI exam on a human patient took place in 1977.
Certainly, applications deserve a lot of attention. Before you can get to them though, researchers first have to understand the basic questions behind them.
The term fundamental science may give some the false impression that it doesn’t really affect their lives because it seems far removed from anything relatable to them. What’s more, the term basic has the non-scientific definition of simple that undermines its importance in the context of basic science.
We must give scientists the opportunity through funding and time to pursue curiosity-based, long-term, basic-science research. Work that does not have direct ramifications for industry or our economy is also worthy. There’s no telling what can come from supporting a curious mind trying to discover something new.