Protesters rising to new heights


(Photo by Ellen Davidson)
Al Kamen
Columnist September 26, 2013

In terms of size, the protest Monday against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a huge trade agreement being negotiated at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington, was no big deal.

The handful of demonstrators from “Flush the TPP,” an assortment of environmentalists, veterans, Code Pink activists and others chanting in front of the USTR building against the 11-nation treaty, hardly merited media attention.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

But as pure guerrilla theater, the noontime demonstration could rank among the best ever.

Eight “construction workers” in blue coveralls and odd “Stop the TPP” yellow hard hats somehow made their way up an unsecured scaffolding — the building is undergoing some exterior work — to the top, where they unfurled a 10-by-30-foot banner condemning the proposed treaty as a corporate giveaway.

Then five of the eight “workers” moved onto a lower balcony — we seem to recall it’s on the same floor as U.S. Trade Rep Mike Froman’s office — and hung two more banners.

The police finally showed up and briefly handcuffed one protester. But that was all.

The action had been planned for a month, said Kevin Zeese , an organizer with PopularResistance.org, and the coveralls and hard hats were ordered online. The door to the scaffolding was always open, he noted, and the group did a final scouting mission the Friday before the event.

But when the protesters arrived Monday in their “Stop the TPP” hats, he said, “we were shocked that there were no workers, no security. It was amazing.”

“We wanted to do something audacious,” Zeese said. “We wanted to be bold.”

Indeed.

We’re told that for security reasons, the USTR would not answer queries about how the protesters managed to scale the building, but it said the agency has a “security posture” that protects all employees.

Did we mention that the building is just across the street from the White House complex, specifically the Eisenhower Executive Office Building?

Shoe-leather reporting

A government shutdown doesn’t just mean that federal workers won’t get paychecks or that services could be pared back. No, this bad boy could have a real impact on the very folks who could avert it.

Brace yourselves!

Lawmakers’ shoes, it turns out, will go unshined. And members of Congress will have to walk at least a block or two for lunch — or maybe they can send one of their “essential” employees to fetch it, since their dining options will be curtailed.

Under a plan for what services and facilities in the House will be affected by a potential shutdown (set to happen next week if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill) the in-house shoeshine is closed, as is the Members’ Dining Room — and the gym. Ditto the dry cleaner and the post office.

Forget what political fallout could come from a shutdown — this is where the rubber (or the sole of a dusty, dull loafer) hits the road.

Naked honesty

There are do’s and don’ts to getting a security clearance. Lying is out. But being a stripper? Might not disqualify you.

That’s at least according to the helpful folks on Reddit’s local forum for Washington, who gave advice to a fellow looking for counsel on security clearances. Seems the guy was interested in a job that requires one but worried that his job history — which included stripping in college, as well as a gig he hopes to get shedding his clothes at the Secrets nightclub — might be a problem.

Not so, says Reddit. The consensus among the commenters seemed to be that as long as the gentleman didn’t lie, it would be okay.

Unclear just what kind of job he’s going for, but it seems that the online advice-givers are right. Sheldon Cohen , a lawyer who specializes in security-clearance law, tells the Loop that he’s never encountered such a case but doesn’t see stripping as an insurmountable roadblock. “I don’t think that would disqualify him,” he said. “And I agree with the person who advised him to tell the truth.”

The once and future stripper seems to be quite an upstanding citizen. He claims to have paid all his taxes properly, listing his job as “entertainer” and deducting stripping-related expenses “like tanning, gym membership, etc.”

No reason stripping wouldn’t be great preparation for government service — at least you’d know a thing or two about transparency.

Seeing other people

Most people have never heard of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which labors under the unfortunate acronym “FERC.” That’s because it generally handles interstate electricity rates, oil and gas pipelines, and such — not the hot-button environmental stuff.

But a major fight has been brewing for many weeks over President Obama’s nomination of former Colorado utility regulator Ron Binz to chair the five-member commission. An array of energy trade groups are strongly against him, and a key Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Democrat, Joe Manchin (W.Va.), has said he won’t vote for him. Although the White House continues to publicly support him, Energy and Natural Resources spokesman Keith Chu said Thursday: “The committee is aware that other candidates are being considered for FERC.”

Sounds as if the towel has been thrown in.

Another nominee

The White House on Thursday nominated Dana Hyde, associate director for general government programs at the Office of Management and Budget since 2011 and before that senior adviser to the deputy secretary of state for management and budget, to be chief executive of the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. international aid organization.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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