Smart Girl Summit 2012 – The Q Recap – Part I

As has become my conference tradition, ’tis time to recap this past weekend in Old Alexandria, Va, where the fourth Smart Girl Summit was held. I have to start by congratulating Teri Christoph, Stacy Mott and the rest of the Smart Girl leadership team and staff for putting on a fantastic event.  The conference ran smoothly and featured a well-rounded group of speakers.  The Westin offered very nice accommodations — and functioning elevators! (Attendees from last year’s Summit in St. Louis will appreciate that.)

I have to say this may have been my favorite conference experience thus far.  Though I’ve enjoyed them all, this was the first one where I felt like I really had time to sit and talk with my fellow Smart Girls (and Boys) and truly enjoy their company.  That may have been due, in part, to the fact that I spent the conference in the Bloggers’ Lounge, rather than attending the actual speeches and presentations — the downside obviously being that I missed out on some great speeches.  Still, I was fortunate enough to sit in on — and even participate in — several interviews of conference guests.  I actually got to wear three hats this time around — though none nearly so smart and spiffy as the infamous Jimmie Bise pork pie hat!  First, I was there as an “Official Blogger” for the Summit (and I hope to do that title justice with this piece if I can ever get it written).  Second, I got to assist my good friend Stephen Hamilton with a number of Radio214 podcasts.  And third, I got my official start as “Gillespie” sidekick on FTRRadio.

Getting there proved, yet again, to be a less-than-stellar experience.  The security line at Lambert when I arrived early Thursday morning was ridiculously long.  Having cut it somewhat close time-wise to begin with, I was even more glad I’d opted to park at the terminal rather than wait for a shuttle.  Not sure I would have made the flight otherwise.  And, once again, we were advised about half-way through the flight that the flight attendants were going to have to buckle in as things were about to get bumpy. While popping Xanax No. 2, I wondered if I’d ever again have a non-turbulent flight.  (Serious note: I don’t take the medication deal lightly.  Unfortunately, my fear-of-flying has reached critical mass.  At this point, I think it may be time to call in the professionals.  Or else never fly again.)   Needless to say, we managed to arrive at BWI in one piece, and I disembarked and quickly found Stephen, who was gracious enough to offer me and my most excellent roommate, Ms. Mary Chastain, a ride from the airport.  Mary arrived only minutes behind me, and the three of us set out for Old Alexandria.

I don’t know that I’d ever been to that area of Virginia before.  It was quite pretty, and a nice place to hold a conference.  The down side being that the town apparently takes its quaintness rather seriously, which translates into a serious lack of gas stations.  And Stephen was running rather low on gas.  His truck is equipped with a very nice GPS system.  However, after the condescending lady speaking to us through said system  led us on several wild goose chases in search of a place to refuel, we began cursing her and calling her all manner of names.  Finally, we found  both a gas station and a McDonald’s and filled up both the truck and our bellies.  Then onto the hotel to check in.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon, so Mary and I spent some down time, just chatting in the room — you know, kids, life, Fast and Furious.  Eventually, I wandered downstairs and found several friends hanging out in the hotel bar.  Later, a whole herd of us made our way to Foster’s Grille for burgers and such.  While there, I noted the rather interesting decor…

Dinner complete, we again made our way back to the hotel and prepared for an epic two hours of radio on FTR, compliments of John Brodigan, Dina Fraioli and Thomas LaDuke.

While I’ll concede it a little strange to be hanging with one’s lap top in a hotel bar, earphones in, chat room open, while surrounded by some of the very people with whom you are chatting on-line, such is live radio from a conference!

Once the show was over, we remained at the hotel bar and, as midnight came and went, I began contemplating bed.  Seriously.

Suddenly, however, it was announced that a group would be heading over to the Rock It Grill for some karaoke.  Who was I to say no to such fun?  I think our final contingent consisted of Holly Bacon, Andrew Staroska, Sam Rosado, Michelle Ray, Kristina Ribali, Lauren Fakes, John Brodigan, Stephen Hamilton and myself. (Curse me now if I’ve omitted anyone.)  The bar was not packed, it being a Thursday, and we had no problem finding a table.  Highlights from this outing included Holly Bacon bringing the house down with “Respect,” (kudos to back up singers Michelle and Andrew), and Andrew treating us all to his dramatic interpretation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (from the table).  In fairness to Andrew, his version was better than that of the people actually up on stage singing into the mic.  Back at the hotel, we were treated to the late night arrival of Ben and Breanne Howe, complete with Ben’s video equipment and 80,000 inch Apple monitor.  By then, it was after 2:00 a.m., and I knew it was time to call it a night.

The next morning, I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the Jamieson Grille (a/k/a the hotel bar/restaurant) with Duke, Brodigan, Lauren, Hanna Drazich and Mark Warner.  Mark, Hannah and I then made a quick Starbuck’s run before heading up to check in at the conference.  Ran into lots of friends in the process.  Love this pic of Dan Colby, Mark, Hannah, Demetrius Minor and me:

Goodie bag and blogger badge acquired, I made my way to the Blogger’s Lounge and set up shop with my iPad.  FTR had one table (complete with banner).

Stephen set up at another, and I hopped back and forth between them as necessary.

The afternoon was fairly uneventful, though there certainly were some highlights.  For instance, Duke and Mark found a way to hug it out…

Brodigan interviewed Rep. Tom Price, who spoke at the conference:

Duke interviewed Ben Domenech of Health Care News and the Heartland Institute, another conference speaker:

And I got to hang out for a few minutes with my pal, Demetrius:

Later, Hammy and I recapped our adventures in Alexandria (thus far) to Baked Flounder, for a fun Radio 214 podcast:

And Mark Warner stopped by to share his wisdom:

Very much enjoyed chatting with Jimmie Bise that afternoon.  He is both great friend and inspiration.  Also enjoyed meeting Dan Colby.  And, as always, chatting with Jeff Donels.   In all, it was a lovely day.  And there was more fun to come Friday evening….

(To be continued…)

(Note: normally, I include Twitter handles with people’s names, but, as Twitter is currently in full meltdown mode, I am unable to double check for accuracy, so those will be added in a bit later.)

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Smoosie’s VP Pick Pool

Okay – time to have us a little fun regarding Romney’s VP pick.  I don’t think the polls register who voted for what, so if you want to claim credit for your predictions, be sure to leave a comment below, as well!

One of the Reasons I Support Todd Akin

After the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, and once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I immediately fired off an e-mail to my Congressman, Todd Akin, to implore him to push for repeal of the beast.  Below is his response:

 

Dear (Q):

I have aggressively fought against the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which represents tax hikes of over $569 billion and cuts $523.5 billion from seniors’ Medicare benefits, since the Democrats passed it last Congress. I am appalled at the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate. A majority of Americans still view this unpopular piece of legislation as an erosion of America’s freedom, health-care system and economy.

 

The previous Democrat controlled Congress forced this disastrous piece of legislation into law despite broad opposition, and I have fought against the adoption of ACA since its inception. Obamacare adds another $371 billion to our nation deficit and represents the dangerous trend of socialist engineering embodied in the individual mandate. Today’s ruling does not end the need for continued opposition to this offensive overreach into the most private aspect of Americans’ lives.  With this decision, I, my conservative colleagues and a substantial majority of Americans will redouble our campaign to defund and repeal all of Obamacare.

 

Ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care has been one of my top legislative priorities. I believe that by empowering and informing consumers to manage their medical care, we can achieve a superior system. I firmly believe that patients should be in charge of their own medical information, and a holistic, prevention oriented approach that rewards responsible decisions can reduce the long term cost of care while providing patients with superior service.

 

I am well aware of the growing costs that are threatening the existing system and our ability to care for low-income and underserved populations.  There is no dispute that health care spending is growing at an unsustainable rate.  I will continue to work for reforms like allowing individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance as a group to lower costs and improve access to coverage, enacting real medical tort reform, and increasing competition in the insurance market by allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines.  Ultimately, health care is about freedom: the freedom to make the best choices for yourself and your family without undue government interference.

 

I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me regarding any matter where I might be of assistance. You may visit http://akin.house.gov/ to find more information in issues, subscribe to my e-newsletter or send me an email.

 

Sincerely,

Todd Akin Member of Congress

“The Bureau Breaks into Spontaneous Cheers”

It’s been 10 days since the Supreme Court decision in NFIB v. Sebelius was handed down. Countless articles and blogs have been written about it since.  Me? I’m still slowly slogging my way through the dang thing.  At least I’m finally into the Dissent — the good one.  (Anyone following my tweets yesterday has a pretty good sense of my distaste for the one penned by Justice Ginsburg.)  

I knew I would eventually want to write about the decision, but questioned what I could possibly add to the discussion, especially a week-and-a-half later.  After recovering from my initial shock, I went into Spockean Analytical mode — coming to an understanding of how the ultimate decision could be technically and jurisprudentially sound, even if it galled me.  I felt the need to defend against the cries of “judicial activism,” first and foremost because the phrase gets bandied about so frequently that it seems to have become the catch-all descriptor for “decisions I don’t like,” rather than retaining any objective meaning.  Second, I truly don’t believe Roberts’ decision is an example of judicial activism. I see it as rather the opposite — judicial restraint in the extreme.  Perhaps so extreme that it circled back around and began gnawing on its own tail.  

Much will be made in the coming months and years of this decision — what it means for the ACA, for the Court, for the coming election and for our own role in fumbling this political football.  At some point, I hope to wander back through my notes on the decision and compose a thorough, thoughtful piece on it, which 2 or 3 people might be charitable enough to read.  

For now, however, I wanted to share something I read this morning.  As some of my readers may be aware, I have become a bit of a SCOTUSblog junkie.  So much so that I ventured out onto a limb last week and requested an interview with SCOTUSblog contributor and 50+ year veteran of SCOTUS reporting Lyle Denniston.  Mr. Denniston graciously assented to my request, and I hope to have a piece up on that by this time next week.  

In the meantime, I’ve been gobbling up most of the new content the blog has been posting — it truly is a fantastic resource for those with more than a passing interest in the SCOTUS. So anyway, this morning I read this piece by Tom Goldstein, detailing a second-by-second account of the decision’s release and the media’s reporting of it. It’s a lengthy read, but I found it fascinating and sincerely encourage you to sit down and spend some time with it.  Ultimately, it provides a thorough analysis of the media coverage, including a very frank look at mistakes made by two major networks in their haste to report on this momentous decision. 

About half-way through the piece, I stumbled across this little nugget which really caught my attention: 

“Unfortunately, neither network is paying attention to the wire services.  In addition to Bloomberg’s early report that the mandate had been upheld, the other three principal wires that cover the Court – Reuters, AP, and Dow Jones – have issued similar alerts in rapid succession.  When AP’s Mark Sherman reports by phone that the mandate is constitutional, his editors look up and see the first CNN banner reporting the opposite.  But they trust their reporter, and move the story.  The bureau breaks into spontaneous cheers.” (bold mine)

Now…why would a wire service be cheering over a Supreme Court decision? Clearly, the folks at the bureau were happy the mandate was upheld.  I highly doubt it was because they were part of the uninsured masses who now purportedly would have fantastic coverage at affordable prices.  Could it be because the mandate’s being upheld counts as a “win” for the Obama Administration?  Surely not.  This is a wire service.  They’re objective reporters.  They simply report the news sans bias.  Right? Riiiiiiggghhhttt….

Not long ago, my 10 year old, aware of my obsession keen interest in politics and media began asking me questions about them.  She wanted to know how she could learn more about them, what news services and websites she could read to better educate herself.  We discussed it at length, and in the course of doing so, I felt compelled to share with her something it took me almost 33 years to realize: Every piece of information you will ever consume comes from a biased source.  There is no such thing as an objective source.  Sources are human.  Humans have biases.  The ones who squawk the loudest about their objectivity tend to be the most biased.  Over time, you will come to find some sources more reliable than others.  But never take anything you read or hear simply at face value.  Always — trust, but verify.  

I think she got it.  She seemed to, anyway.  I suppose it’s a little too early to hand her a copy of Bernie Goldberg’s Bias, but for all the times I feel like a giant parental failure, it was nice to realize I may have given her the gift of discernment.