FaceTime with members of Congress? It may not be that far off.
At the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the communications staff is experimenting with a host of digital platforms and projects, from a sleek YouTube channel to one-on-one interactions with Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa. Overseeing the effort is a Chicago Bears fanatic with a penchant for extreme sports.
“One of Mr. Shuster’s goals when he became chairman “¦ was to look beyond Washington, D.C., because transportation affects all Americans, whether they know it or not,” said Jim Billimoria, the committee’s communications director.
As part of the effort, the committee recently introduced a suave blue-and-gray emblem that looks like it belongs on the nose of a fighter jet. Just the fact that the panel refers to its insignia as a “logo” is an indication of its attention to branding. One of the more unorthodox ideas Billimoria is considering is “crowdsourcing legislation,” which would allow the general public to comment on pending bills.
In the month to come, the committee will unveil a new website, spruce up its Facebook page and introduce new Twitter and Facebook handles. The emphasis will be on infographics, video, and interactive tools. “The purpose is not just to display policy and issues, but to engage the audience with dates and history,” Billimoria said.
The 33-year-old was raised in Palatine, Ill., northwest of Chicago, and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Upon graduating, he “packed up two suitcases” and headed to Washington, where his first job was a press assistant for then-Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio. Asked why he chose not to pursue a career in finance, Billimoria replied, “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you want to do it for the rest of your life.”
In the years that followed, he served as communications director for Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and later under House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. Before coming to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Billimoria spent a year in the private sector working in crisis communications.
In 2005, he cofounded a club for Chicago Bears fans inside the Beltway. “For years, the Washington, D.C., area was a barren wasteland for Bears fans,” the club’s website explains. “In the land where people still played Cowboys and Indians each week, there seemed to be no room for fans of the noble Bear. Though hundreds lived in the area, each drifted, like tumbleweed, searching for a home to watch their beloved team. But they were lost.”
That is no longer the case. On game day, club members gather in the Union Pub, in Northeast Washington, to worship at a “shrine to Ditka,” which consists of a photo of gruff former coach Mike Ditka, three candles, and a pint of lager.
When not swilling beer at Union Pub, Billimoria is tumbling through the troposphere. “I go skydiving on occasion,” he said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”