Tag Archives: congress

We are only represented by pollsters

John Boehner with fingers in his earsYou share your Congressperson with 705,761 neighbors1. How could they possibly represent you?

Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution states that “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand2” Clearly, the founding fathers, felt that 30,000 was a pretty good number. Power, true to its nature, was something our Congresses seldom wished to share. Once the House got to 435 members, they kept it that way. Had they stayed with the intent of our fore parents, the next House session would convene with 10,233 members. Wouldn’t that be cool?

The districts would be way too small to require huge campaign spending – now averaging $1,362,239 per winner3. Anyone with a good facebook following could run. Party affiliation wouldn’t have the clout and new political parties could spring up in your block or your college dorm. Candidates would be forced to speak to the mob – and pander to the mob. Instead of representing big bizness, they would have to represent you and your bizness. Candidates would have to address local issues. With an average of only 22,500 of voting age and not in prison in each district, your vote would matter again. Minorities wouldn’t necessarily be minorities in their districts. The House of Representatives could look and sound like us, rather than them. Your representative wouldn’t have to be rich or a career brown-noser to run. And, it would be so much harder for a just say no do nothing Congress to get away with it. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Other than the obvious out-and-out bribery, lobbyists are represented by the House of Representatives because they know your Congressperson. Lobbyists buy your representatives and their staff meals, take them on trips, pay them to speak at their corporate outings and just hang out with them at the club. We don’t get to do that, because once they go to DC, they only come back for weekends – and they don’t want to hang out with us.

The only way we are represented in Congress is by pollsters. Makes me want to be a bit nicer to them were they to call, but they can’t. Like 26.6% of American households4, I don’t have a landline phone anymore, just my cellphone. In general, little polling is conducted district by district anyway. Most of what my Congressperson knows is what everyone with a landline telephone is thinking, not me and certainly not my neighbors.

In fairness, some Congresspeople have their staff report what people are pissed off about who call their office, email or fax.  Seldom are those reports broken down by voters in their district and none of them account for the wacko robofax, emails or tweets they get from sponsored activism.

We could get together district by district and hire a lobbyist to represent us. Someone who we choose and pay to tell our Congressperson what we are thinking. But that is what we pay our Congressperson to do.

Then there’s that problem with what our representatives are actually doing anyway. Being qualified to serve, no longer requires experience in the complicated machinations of government. No longer do our representatives need an understanding of law, lawmaking and constitutional issues; foreign policy; navigating the bureaucracy; civil service; the workings of the Treasury, or even the difference between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. No longer do we seek representatives who are curious, smart, resourceful, schooled in history, well-read or well-traveled. Those are skills unnecessary in service to we the people.

These days, Congress is run by professional staffers and lobbyists. The staffers control their schedule, write their speeches and tell them what side of each issue they should be on. Staffers working with lobbyists write all the legislation. If you need something done, best go straight to a staffer, though unelected, there’s a much better chance they’ll represent your issue. That is, if your issue is something that will generate campaign contributions.

1Population based on 2010 Census and after redistricting is completed.
2Slaves were counted as three-fifths of one person.
3 Campaign Finance Institute – By the way, it cost $7,500,0052 per Senate winner. If you took the NY Senate race out of the average, it only averaged $4,737,365 per winner.
4 CDC Survey

Stimulus Hawk

In a dramatic achievement of bipartisan compromise, the Clinton-Obama administration has announced a compromise with Republicans for continued stimulus spending – deficit be damned – as long as the economy, as judged by the Chamber of Commerce, deems it appropriate. No, extending the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy was so last week. Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stuck in the malaise of the post-prozac depression, we simply cannot afford to have hundreds of thousands of Americans return home off combat pay. The effect on Visa and Mastercard write-offs would be massive. Public relations spokespeople for virtually every economist who has ever appeared on TV, have stated that, “America needs the stimulus from combat-death life insurance pay-outs to the surviving families to keep our communities vibrant and our schools and VA hospitals open.” Were one of these wars to suddenly come to an end, every American would suffer from the effect of those laid-off in the bomb, bullet, flack jacket, tank, predator drone, helicopter, MRE, spy satellite, cargo plane and cable news industries. The effect would be enormous – we would have to go back to watching people talk about abortion and the protection of marriage.

Were the totally implausible to occur, ‘peace’, the opportunity for middle-aged former veterans to sell themselves to companies formerly known as Prince, for only five times what real soldiers make, is over. Stop. Think for a moment. Without thousands of flights per month half way around the world, what would happen to the price of oil? What would happen to community college language programs in middle eastern dialects? What would happen to the army of friendless nerds working for letter divisions of government who spend their waking hours listening in on phone conversations to and from war zones? Zeltch. Nada. Unemployment. Just imagine for a moment how long they could make it on the street as homeless.

We cannot afford to let his happen. We must support the wars. We must stand against peace. Whatever wars they want, for whatever reason, we need this. For capitalism. For free enterprise. For if we stop fighting over there, the war will leave your street and come to Wall Street.

It is cannot be about winning un-winnable wars. Look what happened to Russia when they left Afghanistan – their economy was destroyed and their government overthrown. We’ve been in Afghanistan now longer the Russians. We cannot afford to ever leave.

If you have not gotten it yet, think for a moment about the people. Awash with dollars in a country where malls are made of clay, how could they survive on poppy production alone? What will happen if the Taliban were to take over the Pakistan nukes? Preemptive strike by India? Or will Ms. Clinton invite a short Pakistani general to come back to power? Would Pakistan make new nuke sales to future terrorist states, such as Brazil or Canada or, god forbid, Mexico? Would Osama come out of his cave leaving us with no enemy to be the focus of our fear? No, we must stay the course.

The joint chiefs, in an announcement approved by Hillary Clinton, have weighed in, “No comment.” Unnamed, anonymous and/or innocuous or vague sources have confirmed that “as long as Wikileaks is plugged, you’ll have to check with the White House or, even, the State Department for an official statement that can be parroted in your blog.” China and Saudi Arabia are on board. Publicly, the EU is for peace, but not at the price of not war. The rest of the world is just too busy or hungry to care.

Perhaps, someone like Senator Jim DeMinted (T, SC) will state it best, “In this time when our very way of life is being threatened by godless people who have run out of money, I’m pro-offense spending. Especially, if we have to cut taxes and social security to pay for it.”

We need to stop thinking about war as, well, “war.” We need to cease our fixation with the sounds of explosions, the blood of innocent children and camps of refugees. We need to embrace that war is about the economy and jobs – our jobs. We need to come together and support our troops in protecting our way of life.

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic. ~A. J. P. Taylor

When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid, it can’t last long.” But though a war may be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. ~Albert Camus

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one. ~Agatha Christie

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. ~Alexis de Tocqueville

A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~Anonymous (German)

War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible. ~A. Philip Randolph

Back to Work to the People’s Business

Lawmakers are back to work this week after the long Labor Day recess. With elections just six weeks away and so many millions of Americans suffering poverty, unemployment, facing eviction, bankruptcy, hunger or without medical care, let’s take a look at how are representatives are going to prove to the voters that they take their jobs seriously.

In addition to prayers, committee meetings, general housekeeping and endless requests for things to be read into the record that didn’t actually occur, here’s what is on this week’s schedule in both chambers, I kid you not.

House of Representatives Senate
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the House regarding…

  • Honoring what happened on 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring those who died on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy (1944).
  • Congratulating Miami Dade College on their 50th Anniversary.
  • Congratulating Michican Technology University on their 125th Anniversary.
  • Commending USC for winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.
  • Designating this week as, “National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week.”
  • Recognizing the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Permitting of Members of Congress to administer the oath of allegiance to applicants for naturalization to take advantage of photo opportunities, which look really nice in campaign flyers and videos.
  • Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created REITs.
  • Designating the Post Office located at 218 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, Wisconsin, as the “Captain Rhett W. Schiller Post Office.”
  • Designating the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
  • Expressing condolences to and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
  • Designating the Federal building and courthouse located at 515 9th Street in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the “Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”
  • Designating the facility of the Government Printing Office located at 31451 East United Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado, as the “Frank Evans Government Printing Office Building.”
  • Designating the federally occupied building located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building.”
  • Designating the Federal building located at 6401 Security Boulevard in Baltimore, Maryland, as the “Robert M. Ball Federal Building.”
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Rita devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, remembering those lost, etc.
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Katrina, saluting volunteers, recognizing, remembering, reaffirming, etc.
  • Recognizes the value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on the nation’s public lands.

Legislation (note: in addition to the people’s new business, the House has 44 bills, which they passed in this session, was sent to the Senate and passed (all, but two by unanimous consent), but a final required vote in the House for them to become law hasn’t happened)…

  • Amends a law so that the Navy’s procurement contract for F/A-18E, F/A-18F, and EA-18G aircraft that expired in March and be extended until two weeks ago.
  • Amends the Made in America Promise Act of 2009 to prohibit Representatives and Senators from making a determination under the Act that is inconsistent with the Act on purchases made by their offices which bear a congressional seal – passed.
  • Amends a law to prohibit the Department from Homeland Security from procuring clothing, tents or natural fiber products directly related to national security that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the US unless they cannot be procured when they are needed.
  • Requires any person judged in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 from being awarded a government contract unless the head of the agency awarding the contract wants to give it to them anyway and they tell Congress about the next month – passed.
  • Authorizes the GSA to allow the American Red Cross to distribute stuff the government bought during disaster response.
  • Amends a 2002 law that allows the Rural Utility Service to make energy efficiency loans, to make them interest free.
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding…

  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Designating this month as “National Preparedness Month.”
  • Recognizing “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
  • Recognizing the victory in the America’s Cup race.
  • Remembering Ralph Smeed.
  • Remembering Bobby Eugene Hannon.
  • Commending the entertainment industry’s encouragement of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Judicial Confirmation Votes

  • Confirmation of the nomination of Jane Stranch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (held hostage for 400 days). Judge Stranch was confirmed.

Procedural Votes

  • Four cloture motions were scheduled with respect to the Small Business Jobs bill (held hostage since June), which would create a $30 billion small business lending fund, funnelled though banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, and provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses grow and add new employees. Two Republicans, Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] and Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] voted with every Democrat in favor, making the other motions moot and allowing a vote on the bill.

Legislation (note: in addition to lobbyists’ new business, the Senate has 372 bills yet to be acted on in this session that have been passed in the house – most of them non-controversial and passed by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority (only 16 of the 372 by less than 60% support), but are being held hostage in the Senate by secret holds, threats of filibuster by the party of no and legislative shenanigans)…

  • No votes are scheduled, but it is expected that the Small Business Jobs will be voted on late Thursday. Update: the bill passed on a 61-38 vote, Thursday, so they can go home for the weekend.
Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by and much of the content derived from OpenCongress.com – a non-profit, independent public resource. Other sources for this story include Senate.gov, ThinkProgress.org,





Buying Washington with our money

$3.8 billion. That’s how much the people you elected to Congress and the Senate took from finance, insurance and real estate lobbyists in the past 10 years. That’s right, billion.

What did they buy? Protection from regulation that would protect consumers and investors. Protection from laws that would stop the outrageous risks, self-dealing, market making, collusion and investor deception. Protection from paying ordinary taxes on their extraordinary incomes. And protection from failure to the tune of more taxpayer money than, according to The Intelligence Daily,

“… the cost of all US wars (including such events as the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the invasion of Panama, the Kosovo War and numerous other small conflicts), the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, the Marshall Plan and the NASA Space Program combined.”

With Congress safely in their vest pockets, the financial sector has thrived and is expected this week to announce record bonus payments – “… expected to be 30 to 40 percent higher than 2008’s.” Wall Street and the mega-banks profits have so bloated during this period that, according to Robert Creamer,

“of every 12.5 dollars earned in the United States, one goes to the financial sector, much of which, let us recall, produces nothing.”

What wait, you must be thinking, what about the regulation and reforms we were promised to keep from having to save all the firms too big to fail from failing again? Surely voters won’t stand for more of the same. The tough votes will have to be made, right? We’re going to re-regulate these companies, get transparency, watch them and enforce our laws, right?

Hate to get your hopes up. On December 11, 2009, the House passed H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 – according to the DNC, the bill is the  “most sweeping financial regulation since the Great Depression.” DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse, said,

“One year after nearly the worst financial collapse in our nation’s history — a collapse brought on by the excessive greed and risk taking of Wall Street and by the anything goes regulatory environment put in place by Republicans — not one Republican in the House thinks that consumers deserve additional protections or that the practices of Wall Street should be curbed.”

The Dems writing the bill, apparently, don’t think so either. The fix was in. To get the 1,300 page bill to a vote, they caved on the enforcement provisions so that the bill falls somewhere between a tediously long suggestion and a PR stunt. Sound tough to voters, but make sure the market sees the secret wink and the nod. Sure, the bill would shuffle the regulators, asks the Treasury to report stuff to Congress, requires a lot more forms to be filled out, and adds some councils and boards. It prohibits a few new things, but also repeals some regulation on the books that could make things worse. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) voted against the bill, believing the legislation does not go far enough. On his website, Kucinich noted the loopholes in the bill “that sophisticated financial industry insiders will exploit with ease.”

But hey, the Senate just got a hold of it. Don’t expect it to be better, shorter, or even get to a vote until spring, if then.


Recommended viewing:

Recommended reading:

The perfect business plan

  1. Sell products that promise to solve life’s most feared problem: death.
  2. Acquire or force out all or most competitors in your market area.
  3. Make it unimaginably difficult, if not impossible, for a start-up business to compete with you.
  4. Spread regulation over 50 states so no one entity really regulates anything.
  5. Contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to campaigns of regulators at all levels of government including the courts and threaten each with loss of support in the next election.
  6. Promote privacy so no one knows what your service costs, what works, how well it works or how you do what you do.
  7. Gradually raise the price high enough that most consumers will be able to pay you for your service, but not have enough left to afford co-payments to use your service.
  8. Create a paper-based administrative system so complicated that it cannot possibly be audited.
  9. Deny payment of services for arbitrary reasons to routinely scare the hell out of your providers and their customers.
  10. Sell a product to those who don’t need it and tell them if they ever stop buying it and need it, they won’t be allowed to.
  11. Require every business to deduct the cost of your service from employee pay checks before they waste it on things like food or shelter.
  12. Require by law that all consumers buy your product or pay thousands of dollars in fines.
  13. Require government to pay for all consumers who cannot afford your product or choose not to purchase it.
  14. Play on the fears of the aged, the infirmed and the uninformed in your advertising.
  15. Play on the fears of the former middle class that government involvement will mean higher prices, higher taxes, and the services they worked so desperately to afford, will be diminished or rationed.
  16. Collude with providers to fix all prices and be the only source for payment of their services.
  17. Play Congress and the President by pretending to offer concessions on future price increases in return for a law to prevent government negotiation of prices.
  18. Stand ready with unlimited advertising budgets, corrupt industry experts and politicians, willing media partners and misinformation should any constituency turn on you.
  19. Gradually increase the pressure of your grip on society’s privates until the pain is so great we all fall on our knees and will do whatever they want.
  20. Don’t make or provide any useful function to society.

Tell Congress to Go to Hell

fuck-youWednesday’s Democrat victory / compromise / cave-in is a harbinger. A public option won’t be able to negotiate for lower costs. Hmmm. Who benefits. Hospitals? Check. Big pharma? Check. Insurance companies? Check. People, sick or otherwise? Wonnnnnk. The smart money on Wall Street has been betting we’d be screwed and they’d get richer. Enough to make me hope nothing passes.

Not. Can’t go there. This is the most important thing this Congress and this President can do for about a hundred million of us who duck doctors and hospital bill collectors while we wince in pain. Not the most important thing this year … they’ve already shafted us on that — the stimulus (aka: bailout for the gloriously happy rich). No, this is life and death and they have chosen profits and to pretend (CNN wants you to believe that, too) that Wall Street mirrors America.

All to save a hundred billion over ten years? Sure. There is not a human being on the planet that believes any of it. Many trillions to make sure Ben Bernanke’s friends stay super-wealthy and the US government needs to screw me and my hundred million peers? F-them..

As God is my witness (oops, God left on the last train to the coast and is now on a slow-boat to China where they bailed-out people instead of banks), I will spend every moment I can afford (Hah! When this is passed, I won’t afford anything) working to defeat every single-sniveling-cowardly-corrupt-lobby-sucking-dickhead-congress-person I can find. I’ll march. I’ll picket. I’ll write. Email. You-tube. Twitter those [expletive deleted by editor] assholes the rest of my life. (Note to the Secret Service: strictly metaphorical threats.)

Folks, this ain’t over, but it will be soon.

I know. I know. I know. We just need to pass health care reform and will fix it in post (a video and audio production term that allows you to record something really badly and use various computer techniques — like Photoshop —  to make it seem better when people see it). Not this time. We’ll be dead broke and mostly dead before they take the power out of the cold live hands of the lobbyists.

I don’t have any power except to write you. If you can reach out and touch one, just one of the cretins we called leaders, please do it for me — or for one of the hundred million others who are more likeable.

A sermon for the choir

Listen up you godless, spineless, irrational, sushi-eating, America-blaming, terrorist-coddling, morally superior, Hollywood-humping, liberal, defeatocrat, progressive, elitist, Marxist, business-bashing, whining, pinko, tree-hugging, vegan-exalting, crackpot, sanctimonious, stem-cell-sucking, tofu-chomping, out-of-touch, pantywaist, tax-hiking, Obamaton snobs*. This is a defining moment. A tipping point. A chance such as we have never had before. A chance that we, the world, will never have again.perfect_storm

This is the moment. It will define the future of our children and generations to come. Forever. This is a planet-changing moment. Life and death serious. We have a narrow window and it will close. I fear we are going to blow it. Grab a beer and watch it on TV. Cheat this chance to make our brief moments here matter. I fear, we are going to damn ourselves to an eventual, perhaps, inevitable oblivion and take everyone with us.

You know the litany. The talking points. Stop. Think about them. This is real. A storm more perfect than facts know or fiction dreamed.  We should be in the streets.

Say these things out loud:

  • Rapid climate change is occurring; the ice caps are melting; the oceans are rising, our planet is warming.
  • The world is in a great recession – a world where more than 80% already live on less than $10 a day.
  • People are starving all over the planet.
  • More than a billion people don’t have clean drinking water; almost as many can’t read or write.
  • We have a global pandemic.
  • Iran, Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear weapons.
  • Fundamentalism, ethnic sovereignty and terrorism have made many of the world’s governments unstable.
  • Recipes for bio-weapons are on the internet.
  • Even per capita, there are more guns in the world than ever before.
  • Pollution and over-fishing have 80% of our fish stocks in danger of collapse.
  • Industrial pollution, the overuse of pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizer runoff have all species at risk.
  • Global drilling and mining cartels, most controlled by dictators, hold the world’s economy hostage – while our natural resources dwindle.
  • In the US:
    • We are in two wars – weapons spending continues to increase.
    • Our deficit will be almost $2 trillion this year and will get worse.
    • Medical care gobbles one of every five dollars and will eat more – 1 out of 3 have no health insurance.
    • Most lost half the value of their retirement and investments last year.
    • Half of us have an unemployed family member who won’t find a job this year – it is getting worse.
    • We have record numbers of bankruptcies, mortgage foreclosures and people in prison.
    • Lobbyists and campaign funds continue to control our government.
    • Our farm subsidies have destroyed small farms around the world.
    • 39 states cut 2009 spending for Medicaid, schools and other services for families (12 Southern states out of 16) – more cuts will come for years to come.
    • Our government now insures most mortgages, business and investments around the world.
    • We bailed out Wall Street.

Yet, we have the audacity of hope. A new, smart, charismatic and popular president with a majority in both houses.  Will we have the dramatic change he promised and the world needs? No reason to think so.

More troops are on their way to Afghanistan with no talk of an exit strategy.

  • CIA-guided bombings and other incursions into Pakistan are now routine.
  • Record lobby spending has regulation for Wall Street languishing as Goldman Sachs reports billions of profits on high risk investments.
  • The stimulus bill passed, but is just a band-aid to state budgets, builds too many roads we don’t need, extends some unsustainable benefits for too small a percentage of the unemployed and suffering, does little to create consumption or re-start business, and will rollout so slowly, most of us won’t notice.
  • The energy bill that passed the House and is in the Senate is an insult to all of us who wish to breath and have hope for our future – the Senate is sure to make it worse.
  • The heath care bill has been introduced in the House, but don’t expect much or soon – something is likely to pass this year, but it surely will be a another Congressional camel that sustains all that is bad (private insurance, for instance) while helping some, but not nearly enough.

liberalsearchingfor

It isn’t too late, but our leaders don’t think we care. They don’t believe many of us are paying attention to what they do, only to what talk TV and talk radio say about what they do. They also know our attention span is greater for Michael Jackson than for debate on Capital Hill. They know we won’t hold them accountable in the next election. They know we aren’t organized. That we are too busy worrying about having a place to live, feeding our families, updating our Facebook and ducking calls from credit card companies. They know the generation who took to the streets in the 60’s are in their 60’s. The rest of us are too busy, too lazy, too fearful, too preoccupied.


Bully Pulpit

Brother and sisters, I come before you today a shaken man. I fear our dream will turn into a nightmare. I fear the sinners on Wall Street and K Street will not repent. That the sick and suffering among us will be turned away. That the little children will continue to gather in the refugee camps to pick through the garbage. That the best and brightest will continue to die in service alongside the powerless and innocent collateral damage. I fear the new President will accept the lukewarm bills in Congress – neither hot nor cold, and not spit them out. I fear that sound from the corporate boardrooms, from the sheiks and dictators, from the oil wells to the new car show rooms, will be, “Hallelujah, we did it to them again. Praise greed almighty.”

I have seen the promised land and it is only on TV. Can I please not get an “amen”?

__________________
* Apologies for borrowing “liberally” from the Liberal Insult Generator