Calling Western Union


telegraph office

In days long before mine, there was something called the telegraph office. It's where you went to send a very important message. Often times, it was the announcement of a special event -- a birth, a promotion and in the most dire of circumstances, a death. These messages were sent over the wire in Morse Code - a series of dits and dahs, or dots and dashes. They then were translated to words and glued to a yellow paper, put in an envelope to ensure privacy, and delivered right to your house. It was an event when one came.

old time telephone

Then, over time, the telephone became the common source of relaying such news and along with it's availability the Western Union telegraph office went into hiding. They changed their primary business of using the wire to notify people to sending money. Yes, money was "wired" to a telegraph office and the person came in and upon proper proof of identification, you picked up cash. Now, with cell phone proliferation, and the internet, money's as easy to transfer as the click of a few buttons on any of your internet connected devices and presto. Money goes where you need it to go. So the telegraph offices have become even more endangered if not outright extinct. Think about it. When's the last time (if ever) you saw an actual telegram?

telegram death notice

Now, over the years the word telegraph is still with us, even it the telegraph isn't. And it's commonly used, too. But for a new use. It means to signal. Stop. To allude to Stop. To hint at or tease Stop. It's saying something without using the actual words. Stop.

Okay, I just put the "stop" in there to see if you really knew your telegraph or thought you did. The use of a "." was not available in a telegram because in the language of Morse Code, a period meant the letter "e". So to break up sentences, you inserted the word, "stop." Stop.

I'm almost to my point. Telegraph now means to convey an idea without saying the exact words. In poker a player refers to an unintentional tip of a bluff with a  what's referred to by the poker sharks as a "Tel." One "l". Why? because it doesn't mean to tell you something, it's short for telegraphing. In other words, saying what you are thinking without verbalizing.

Now comes my point. In a Talking Points Memo today, a headline read GOP Telegraphs Mass Filibuster. In this article they go on to say

Senate Republicans are standing firm by their threat to block every one of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, insisting on eliminating all three vacant seats on the country’s second most powerful court.

Now that's not telegraphing in today's vernacular. That's basically old English usage. They are announcing and broadcasting their intentions. There's no allusion about it. It's straight forward obstructionism. But they don't want to call it that, so here's how the GOP intends to telegraph their plans.

Republicans appear to be united behind Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) legislation to reduce the number of active judges on the D.C. Circuit court from 11 to eight. He proposes eliminating one seat, transferring one to the Second Circuit and transferring another to the 11th Circuit. (During the Bush administration, Grassley led a successful effort to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit court from 12 to 11.)

“It’s way overstaffed,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), another Judiciary Committee member, told TPM on Thursday. “It does not need these judges, and we don’t have the money.”

How amazing this ruse considering two things -- a record backlog of cases pending because of a shortage of judges to hear the cases -- and how little money would be saved in salaries. Assuming the federal officials who have brought these cases were right even half of the time, the fees, fines and penalties paid by those found guilty would more than cover the expenses. Oh, and did you forget that court costs are assessed if someone's found guilty? The government doesn't pay them. I guess Grassley and Sessions and their cronies don't even know that much. Maybe we need to stop telegraphing things to them and come right out and say it. You're not being honest here. You're simply obstructing justice under the cloak of fiscal responsibility. Pathetic.

Senate Judiciary committee

So what's left?

If Republicans stand by their threat and filibuster, it’ll leave Democrats with a tough choice: either back off and concede defeat, or threaten to roll back the filibuster on a partisan basis via the nuclear option and confirm the judges by themselves.

But the Democrats are afraid of what will happen when the Republicans retake the Senate. Well facing down justice or a threat of the Republicans even retaking the senate, I'll go with justice.

What's even more amazing in the telegraphing of the Republican's intentions is on one hand you have Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) telling TPM.

"...I will consider each of the judges on the basis of his or her merits.”

And then you have this telegraph from the Republicans on the committee.

...the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8. Every Republican voted against her, although they didn't criticize her or take issue with her qualifications.

We all know there's nothing progressive about the GOP, even the term contemporary makes them shudder. So perhaps I'm wrong and they really are telegraphing news in the "traditional" sense. They're giving an official notice. This telegram reads: Decision reached. Stop. Halt all progress. Stop. No new judges. Stop. Our party is dead. Stop.