Alan Grayson's Journal
Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 428
Number of posts: 428
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This year, during this holiday season, I am extending to you, John or Jane Q. Public, the same Christmas gifts that the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations get from our public servants in Washington, DC, each and every year:
Do you have a mortgage that exceeds 80% of the value of your home? I got you a tax break on your mortgage insurance. That was my bill H.R. 3941.
Do you live in a state that taxes sales more than income? I got you tax break on your state and local sales taxes. That was my bill H.R. 3942.
Are you in college, or do you pay for a family member in college? I got you a tax break on tuition. That was my bill H.R. 3943.
Do you want to make charitable contributions from your IRA? I got you a tax deduction for that. That was my bill H.R. 3944.
Are you a business owner who employs our active-duty soldiers and sailors? I got you a tax credit for that. That's my bill H.R. 3946.
Are you a retailer who has made improvements in your stores? I got you accelerated depreciation for that. That was my bill H.R. 3948.
Are you a restaurant owner, farmer or food manufacturer who contributes food to the hungry? I got you an extra charitable deduction for that. That was my bill H.R. 3949.
Are you a homeowner who has made home improvements to cut your energy costs? I got you a tax credit for that. Those were my bills H.R. 3950 and H.R. 3951.
Waaaaaaaaay back in January 2014, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, I introduced those nine bills to extend important middle class tax breaks. Earlier this month, after a year of incessant badgering by me, the Powers That Be lumped them all together in H.R. 5771, using my exact words in each case, and placing them in H.R. 5771 in the same order in which I had introduced them. There were 52 sections to H.R. 5771. I wrote nine of them - the nine sections that might actually make a difference in your life, assuming that you are neither David Koch nor Charles Koch.
H.R. 5771 passed the House on Dec. 3. It passed the Senate on Dec. 16. The President signed my nine middle-class tax breaks into law last Friday.
If you are a beneficiary of any of those nine Grayson tax breaks, you're welcome.
By the way, when was the last time that you heard any progressive Democrat say these words: "I got that passed. I got that signed into law." Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
You may wonder how a second-term Congressman, in the minority party, who does not sit on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, managed to get nine different tax breaks passed in a single year. Good question. I'll answer that next time.
In the meantime, please enjoy your Grayson Christmas gifts. Your Chanukah gelt. Your Kwanzaa karamu.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Dec 25, 2014, 02:22 PM (8 replies)
There was a filibuster in the U.S. Senate last week. Yes, I know, that’s hardly news. And a cloture vote to end that filibuster. That’s hardly news, either. And the cloture vote failed. Not news.
The vote was, among other things, to end the National Security Agency’s collection of records of every phone call that you make. Which, sadly, also is no longer news. What would be news is if someone did something about it.
Fifty-eight senators voted in favor of ending the filibuster, and the “bulk collection.” Only forty-two voted against. But we no longer live in a country where the majority rules, so every single time you make a phone call, the NSA will know to whom you spoke, and for how long.
Regarding the failed vote against the filibuster, the D.C. newspaper Roll Call opined that: “It’s probably going to take another series of revelations about NSA programs for strict legislation to get momentum again.” But I’m wondering how much of the last series of revelations has been absorbed by the body politic. So I’m offering to you excerpts from a little-noticed interview that Edward Snowden did with The Guardian a few months ago, complete with British spelling. File it under the category of “read it and weep.”
Yes, the NSA Shares Your Sexy Photos… And Other Observations from Edward Snowden
On NSA culture, sharing sexually compromising material
SNOWDEN: When you’re an NSA analyst and you’re looking for raw signals intelligence, what you realise is that the majority of the communications in our databases are not the communications of targets, they’re the communications of ordinary people, of your neighbours, of your neighbours’ friends, of your relations, of the person who runs the register at the store. They’re the most deep and intense and intimate and damaging private moments of their lives, and we’re seizing (them) without any authorisation, without any reason, records of all of their activities – their cell phone locations, their purchase records, their private text messages, their phone calls, the content of those calls in certain circumstances, transaction histories – and from this we can create a perfect, or nearly perfect, record of each individual’s activity, and those activities are increasingly becoming permanent records.
Many of the people searching through the haystacks were young, enlisted guys and … 18 to 22 years old. They’ve suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all your private records. In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but they’re extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: “Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.” And then Bill sends it to George, George sends it to Tom and sooner or later this person’s whole life has been seen by all of these other people. Anything goes, more or less. You’re in a vaulted space. Everybody has sort of similar clearances, everybody knows everybody. It’s a small world.
It’s never reported, nobody ever knows about it, because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak. Now while people may say that it’s an innocent harm, this person doesn’t even know that their image was viewed, it represents a fundamental principle, which is that we don’t have to see individual instances of abuse. The mere seizure of that communication by itself was an abuse. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communication stream, from the intended recipient, and given to the government without any specific authorisation, without any specific need, is itself a violation of your rights. Why is that in the government database?
I’d say probably every two months you see something like that happen. It’s routine enough, depending on the company you keep, it could be more or less frequent. But these are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.
Why He Gave the Documents to Multiple Journalists
SNOWDEN: As an engineer, and particularly as somebody who worked in telecoms and things like that on these systems, the thing that you’re always terrified of when you’re thinking about reliability is SPOFs – Single Point of Failure, right? This was the thing I told the journalists: “If the government thinks you’re the single point of failure, they’ll kill you.”
Whether Spying on Everyone Stops Terrorism
SNOWDEN: The White House investigated those programs (which allowed mass surveillance) on two separate occasions and on both occasions found that they had no value at all, and yet, while those panels recommended that they be terminated, when it actually came to the White House suggesting action to legislators, the legislators said: “Well, let’s not end these programs. Even though they’ve operated for 10 years and never stopped any imminent terrorist attacks, let’s keep them going.”
Life at the NSA
SNOWDEN: I began to move from merely overseeing these systems to actively directing their use. Many people don’t understand that I was actually an analyst and I designated individuals and groups for targeting.
I was exposed to information about the previous programs like Stellar Wind (used during the presidency of George W Bush) for example. The warrantless wire-tapping of everyone in the United States, including their internet data – which is a violation of the constitution and law in the United States – did cause a scandal and was ended because of that.
When I saw that, that was really the earthquake moment because it showed that the officials who authorized these programs knew it was a problem, they knew they didn’t have any statutory authorization for these programs. But instead the government assumed upon itself, in secret, new executive powers without any public awareness or any public consent and used them against the citizenry of its own country to increase its own power, to increase its own awareness.
We constantly hear the phrase “national security” but when the state begins … broadly intercepting the communications, seizing the communications by themselves, without any warrant, without any suspicion, without any judicial involvement, without any demonstration of probable cause, are they really protecting national security or are they protecting state security?
What I came to feel – and what I think more and more people have seen at least the potential for – is that a regime that is described as a national security agency has stopped representing the public interest and has instead begun to protect and promote state security interests. And the idea of western democracy as having state security bureaus, just that term, that phrase itself, “state security bureau”, is kind of chilling.
The relationship between the NSA and telecom and internet companies
SNOWDEN: Unusually hidden even from people who worked for these agencies are the details of the financial arrangements between (the) government and the telecommunication service providers. And we have to ask ourselves, why is that? Why are their details of how they’re being paid to collaborate with (the) government protected at a much greater level than for example the names of human agents operating undercover, embedded with terrorist groups?
What Happens If You Report Wrongdoing Through the Proper Channels
SNOWDEN: Thomas Drake, an American who exposed widespread lawlessness … (he was a senior NSA employee who raised concerns about agency programs and their impact on privacy) … rather than having those claims investigated, rather than having the wrongdoing remediated, they launched an investigation against him and … all of his co-workers.
They pulled them out of the shower at gunpoint, naked, in front of their families. They seized all of their communications and electronic devices, they interrogated them all, they threatened to put them in jail for life, for years and years and years, decades, and they destroyed their careers.
“The public should not know about these programmes. The public should not have a say in these programmes and, for God’s sake, the press had better not learn about these programmes or we will destroy you.”
Compromising the Security of the Web Itself
SNOWDEN: A back door in a communications system, in an internet system, in an encryption standard is basically a secret method of getting around the security of those communications. It’s a way of subverting all of the privacy claims, all of the security claims that a company or a standard makes to the people who use a product or service.
The danger of building back doors like that, for example the Bullrun program where the NSA and GCHQ were shown to be collaborating and weakening the encryption standards that the entire internet relies on, means that when you’re accessing your bank account online there could be a secret weakness there that allows our western governments’ security services to monitor your bank details.
What people often overlook is the fact that when you build a back door into a communication system that back door can be discovered by anyone around the world. That can be a private individual, that can be a security researcher at a university, but it can also be a criminal group. It can also be a foreign intelligence agency but, say, the NSA’s equivalent in a deeply irresponsible government in some foreign country. And now that foreign country can scrutinise not just your bank records, not just your private transactions but your private communications all around the internet and in every institution … that relies upon these standards – whether it’s Facebook, whether it’s Gmail, where it’s Skype, whether it’s Angry Birds. Suddenly you’ve been made electronically naked as you go about your activities on the internet.
That decision wasn’t debated by any public body, it wasn’t authorised by any legislator. In fact, at least in the United States in the 1990s, law enforcement agencies asked specifically for this sort of back door access to internet communications. And our elected representatives in Congress rejected it. They said it was a violation of our civil rights and it was an unnecessary risk to the security of our communications, and so they shut it down.
But what we see is that 10 years later, instead of going back to Congress and asking again, they simply went ahead, and the intelligence community … said: “We’re going to do this. It doesn’t matter what Congress says. It doesn’t matter what the public thinks. We’re going to do this because it provides us an advantage.”
And the consequences of that today are unknown because we could have foreign adversaries exploiting those back doors that intelligence agencies in countries like the United Kingdom, intelligence agencies like GCHQ, put into our communications … and we have no idea that it’s occurring.
What last year’s revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe and cannot be trusted. Their integrity has been compromised and we need new security pro to protect them. Any communications that are transmitted over the internet, over any networked line, should be encrypted by default. That’s what last year showed us.
Privacy and Liberty
SNOWDEN: Most reasonable people would grant that privacy is a function of liberty. And if we get rid of privacy, we’re making ourselves less free. If we want to live in open and liberal societies, we need to have safe spaces where we can experiment with new thoughts, new ideas, and (where) we can discover what it is we really think and what we really believe in without being judged. If we can’t have the privacy of our bedrooms, if we can’t have the privacy of our notes on our computer, if we can’t have the privacy of our electronic diaries, we can’t have privacy at all.
* * *
The NSA claims that Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes bulk collection. Section 215 expires on June 1, 2015. Watch as the storm clouds collect.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Nov 26, 2014, 04:55 PM (11 replies)
We won our election, by a double-digit margin. Grayson 54%, Generic Tea Party Republican 43%.
Why did we win? Because of everyone who helped.
To the legions of volunteers who made 100,000+ live telephone calls for us, thank you.
To our 100,000+ contributors, whether you gave $0.01 or $5200.00, thank you.
To our tireless canvassers, who knocked on 80,000 doors in the last four months alone, thank you.
And of course, to our voters, thank you.
And to the Koch Brothers, who ran vicious and deceptive ads against us, we won, no thanks to you. You fooled a lot of voters this year, but not ours.
Our voters said “Yes!” to more jobs, better jobs, better benefits, healthcare for everyone, and public services like education and transportation that work. Our voters said “Yes!” to justice, equality and peace.
As you did, whenever you helped our campaign.
Look, the last election that produced so few House Democrats was the one in 1928. The last election that produced so few Democrats in state legislatures was the one in 1928. Every Democrat is vulnerable – they wait, they sneak up on you, and then they drop $3 million in vicious attack ads on your head. Every Democrat seat was up for grabs this year, and our supporters made it possible to keep ours. And keep fighting for progressive principles. To keep fighting for progress.
I recognize that a lot of bad things happened on Tuesday. In fact, a lot of bad things have been happening for a long time, and there is no end in sight. But
Together, we won]. And whatever you did to help, you share in that victory. And you can feel good – no, great! – about that.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Nov 6, 2014, 10:36 PM (35 replies)
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that tomorrow is not the day when nanotechnology turns the Earth into grey goo. Nor the day when intelligent robots decide that they’ve had enough of our crap. Nor the day when climate disruption boils off all the oceans. Nor the day when a new virus, transmissible through glances and 100% fatal, does its dirty work. Nor the day when a giant asteroid shatters the Earth’s crust. Nor the day when Our Friends from Frolix-8 arrive (and boy, are they pissed off).
No, silly, all of that happens next Tuesday. Tomorrow, we have a mid-term election.
Different people react to that news in different ways. For instance, some people vote. No, really. Some people vote on Election Day.
Other people do other stuff. For instance, I was just on the phone with volunteers who will be making roughly 100,000 live phone calls to voters today.
Here’s another example: Mary S., of Princeton, NJ, did something at 11:52 pm last night that was extraordinarily kind. She gave our campaign $2000. Mary will not be getting a bailout, a tax break, a no-bid contract, an offshore drilling license or an earmark in return. But she will be getting my personal thanks, plus the sense that she pushed us closer to victory.
What about you? I’m not going to tell you that if you don’t contribute, Michelle Obama will be very disappointed in you. I’m not going to tell you that we’re just $16,528 short of our goal. I’m not going to tell you that everything that you contribute will be quintuple-matched. I’m not going to tell you that if you don’t contribute, we will lose. I’m not even going to tell you that the deadline is midnight tonight, even though the deadline actually is midnight tonight.
No, I don’t want to make you Xanax-dependent. I don’t want that on my conscience.
Instead, I will just tell you this. If you decide to join Mary S., and make a last-minute contribution, you do put our campaign closer to victory. Not just our campaign to re-elect me; that’s only an infinitesimal part of this. You put our campaign for justice, equality and peace one step closer to victory. You put our campaign to shelter the homeless, to feed the hungry, and to heal the sick one step closer to victory. You put our campaign to make America a paradise for ordinary people – including you, and your loved ones – one step closer to victory.
Tomorrow, I may win or I may lose. In the grand scheme of things, that means nothing. I’m just the fork-lift operator. But with your help, the permanent campaign to make the world a better place, to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, that campaign will succeed.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Nov 3, 2014, 12:41 PM (0 replies)
Let me explain what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to win an election this week. But I’m also trying to build a progressive movement.
Isn’t it time that someone did? If that sounds good to you, then you can click here to join us, and contribute to our progressive action “building fund.”
Is anyone else doing this? Simple answer: no.
The Democratic Party? Give me a break. The Democratic Party machinery that I know treats progressive principles as if they were Ebola. They want all of our candidates to natter on and on about how they are “problem-solvers,” as long as they studious avoid any actual problems to solve. Which is good, because most of those candidates wouldn’t know a real solution if one sat on their faces.
The labor unions, God bless them, have been trying to unite us for a century. But as effective as they may have been in the Thirties and in the Fifties, they haven’t been able to coalesce a broad progressive movement.
President Obama? I wish it were true. In 2008, I hoped that it was true. I respect President Obama’s calm, his intelligence, and the fact that he always appeals to our better natures. But I haven’t seen him building a progressive movement. And on some issues, such as privacy, freedom of the press, environmentalism and foreign affairs, it’s hard for me to discern any progressive impulse.
Senator Warren? We all adore her, and maybe at some point she will. But until now, she has focused, quite effectively, on a narrow set of issues like financial regulation and student loans. Which is wonderful, and entirely worthwhile, but it’s not the same as building a progressive movement.
We need someone to build a progressive movement. And since I see no other volunteers, that’s what I’m trying to do.
And I’m asking you to be part of it. Click here to show your support for this concept, this ideal, that people of good intentions can join forces to make the world a better place.
We have shown the capacity for mass mobilization and mass action. Last year, I wrote a petition against Social Security and Medicare cuts. Guess how many people signed my petition? Almost 3,000,000.
We have shown the capacity to help shape public opinion, and channel that opinion to direct public policy. Last year, I did 40+ media interviews in three days regarding going to war against Syria. I implored people to call, write and e-mail their Members of Congress, and make themselves heard. “When it’s our money, and it’s our blood, it’s our decision,” I said. The result: a 25% shift in public opinion in three weeks, public comments to Members of Congress that ran as much as 100-to-1 in favor of peace, and . . . peace.
We have shown the capacity to engage mass involvement in political campaigns. For instance, on one Sunday in 2012, progressive volunteers from around the country made 62,000 calls into our district, urging Democrats to vote. So we reached almost half of all of the Democratic households in our district – in a single day, all with volunteers.
If we win on Nov. 4, then next year, we will introduce exciting progressive initiatives like these:
● a bill to eliminate tax breaks for corporations and equalize tax rates for corporations and human beings – if corporations have our rights, then shouldn’t they also have our responsibilities?
● a bill to equalize tax rates for the millionaires and billionaires who call their income “capital gains” and the poor, unfortunate souls who actually work for a living – because a dollar is a dollar.
● a bill to extend Medicare coverage to vision exams, glasses, hearing aids and dental needs – because seniors have eyes, ears and teeth.
● a bill to rescind the ridiculous “free trade” giveaways and concessions to multinational corporations that have sucked $500,000,000,000.00 out of our economy every year for the past 14 years.
● a bill to provide for paid sick leave for every employee – because no one asks to be sick.
But I’ll do a lot more than just write these bills. (And, by the way, I wrote more bills last year than any other Member of Congress.) Our bills won’t gather dust. We will push-push-push them, nonstop, both inside and outside Congress, until they pass.
And over time, we will create something that this country hasn’t seen in 102 years: a true, comprehensive progressive platform. (History buffs, I’m referring to the historic Progressive Party platform of 1912.) A platform of justice, equality and peace.
Is that something that you want to see happen? Then help make it happen. Become a part of it, now.
And part of our effort will be electing not only more Democrats, but better Democrats. I’m the head of the House Progressive Caucus PAC. In 2012, even though I was out of office and hoping for a comeback, I raised over $400,000 for other progressive candidates, and for the party.
Here’s something sad: I didn’t see anyone else doing that. The entire party machinery is devoted to taking progressive money from progressive donors, and then recruiting “Blue Dog” conservative Democrats to lavish it on, and waste it on. Example: 2010. The party raised and spent almost $100 million to aid 40+ Democratic House candidates, giving them over $1 million apiece. How many of those 40+ were members of the House Progressive Caucus? One. Just one.
The Koch Brothers alone spent $4 million to attack me that year. The party spent nothing – absolutely nothing – to defend me.
When you contribute to our campaign, you are not only contributing to Alan Grayson’s reelection. You also are contributing to the reelection of Rick Nolan, Carol Shea-Porter, Mike Honda, and countless other good, solid progressives that you’ve never heard of. I know these people. I see them every day. I know who is real and who is fake. I know who deserves your support, so I give them my support. When you support me, you are supporting them.
This is your one-stop shop for progressive action.
Look: Rick Nolan, Carol Shea-Porter, Mike Honda and I – we’re all on the ballot this week. We may win or we may lose. But the things that we are fighting for – them, me and you – they are timeless. For 3000 years, we have known that a just society is one that shelters the homeless, feeds the hungry, and heals the sick. So it has always been, and so it shall ever be. That’s what we’re fighting for. And we need your help to do it.
More than 100,000 people have contributed to our campaign. That’s the largest number of any Democratic Member of the House. Over 3000 of them – we call them “sustainers” – have gone a step further. They are signed up to contribute each month. Why? Because they understand that elections come and go, but the need for a progressive movement – the need for progress – is always there.
I’m asking you to help that way. Become a part of something big. Even $20 a month can make a huge difference – your $20 will shift $20,000 or more away from the war profiteers, the Wall Street profiteers, and the carbon profiteers, and toward the sick, the working poor, helpless children and needy seniors. Ain’t that America?
Right now, America is #1 in the world in persons incarcerated, in foreign countries occupied, in “defense” expenditures, and in guns owned. Let’s be #1 in full employment, in life expectancy, in income equality, in college graduates and in happiness. Let’s make America great.
Let’s make a movement, and then -- let’s move.
Rep. Alan Grayson
“What do we do now?”
- Robert Redford, “The Candidate” (1972) (the last line of the movie, after he is informed of his victory)
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sun Nov 2, 2014, 08:04 PM (1 replies)
I’m pretty sure that I’ll be the only one mentioning this to you, but on Tuesday, we have a chance to take out the reigning king of the polluters, Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Los Angeles Times has called Fred Upton “one of the biggest threats to Planet Earth on Planet Earth.”
Upton has tried to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. He says that Congress’s failure to act against climate disruption – a failure that he is largely responsible for – means that the EPA must sit on its hands, as well. Upton says that doing anything to fight carbon pollution would “hamstring our economic recovery.”
But Upton’s not all bad. He cosponsored a bill to make light bulbs more energy efficient. Then he led the fight to prevent President Obama from enforcing it.
Let me put it this way: When Upton was an infant, his first words were “drill, baby, drill.”
Pollution defender Fred Upton has got to go. Click here to make a last-minute contribution to his opponent, progressive Democrat Paul Clements.
Prof. Lawrence Lessig runs MAYDAY PAC, the “PAC to end all PACs,” which is dedicated to countering special-interest sewer money in politics. Lessig has this to say about Upton:
“When it comes to Fred Upton, the link between the people who fund his campaigns and the way he votes in Congress is crystal-clear. . . . Upton has taken $10 million in special interest PAC money over his career. He took $2.1 million from Big Oil and energy interests, and he voted to give away billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies. MAYDAY decided to work to defeat Fred Upton because he is the epitome of the modern corrupt politician.”
MAYDAY PAC is spending over $2 million in grassroots small-dollar donations to defeat Fred Upton.
What about you? Do you want to join the grassroots donors who support MAYDAY PAC, and help Paul Clements defeat Fred Upton next Tuesday?
A right-wing special-interest PAC called the “American Future Fund” (don’t fake names like that make you want to barf?) is spending heavily to defend Upton. Here is what they have to say in Upton’s defense: “Upton has led the fight to . . . approve the Keystone Pipeline.” The Keystone Pipeline! NASA climate scientist James Hansen says that if the Keystone Pipeline is built, “it’s game-over for the planet.”
And Upton’s district is not the kind of district where you can sell out to the oil and gas industry, and expect cheers for that. In 2008, President Obama won Upton’s current district by eight points. And in 2012 in Upton’s district, Michigan’s “favorite son,” Mitt Romney, eked out a one-point victory over President Obama.
If we can’t win in a district like this, then we can’t win anywhere. Donate today, and let’s show Fred Upton that he can’t sell out his district, his country, the whole freakin’ planet! – and expect to get away with it.
Upton’s opponent is Paul Clements, a political science professor at Western Michigan University. Clements isn’t pulling any punches: he says that environmental protection is THE issue. He is running against Upton because defeating Upton means defeating climate change. Clements wants to bring more clean-energy jobs to Michigan.
It looks like Clements has Upton on the run. A poll last week showed Clements down by only four points, within the margin of error, with ten percent of the voters still undecided. Clements has momentum. He can win.
With our help, Paul Clements can beat Fred Upton. Your contribution today will help Clements get out his vote on Tuesday. Do something nice for Planet Earth today – help us defeat Fred Upton.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sat Nov 1, 2014, 06:33 PM (2 replies)
Team Grayson here. Congressman Grayson has been speaking out for quite some time now about the effect of drone warfare on innocent victims, and the resulting plunge in American support in areas where drones are deployed. Last year, he brought victims of a drone strike in Pakistan to the United States to appear for the first time before Congress. Since then, he’s been working to put a human face to the casualties of America’s drone policy. Here’s an op-ed he just published at Huffington Post. The piece was co-written by Alan’s good friend Robert Greenwald, the founder and president of Brave New Films. Robert’s most recent film, Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes, at home and abroad. Read the full piece below:
Mamana Bibi was a 67-year-old Pakistani grandmother and midwife, killed by a U.S. drone strike on October 24, 2012. One year ago, the family of Mamana Bibi came to Washington, D.C., to share their sad story with Members of Congress.
Mamana's son, Rafiq ur Rehman, is a 39-year-old primary-school teacher. He and his two children, Zubair, 13, and Nabila, 9, were the first family members of a U.S. drone strike victim ever to speak to Members of Congress. Rafiq explained that he and his family were educators, not terrorists. He wanted to know why his family was targeted by the U.S. military. Zubair, a teenager, recalled how he "watched a U.S. drone kill my grandmother." He described why he now fears blue skies: "Because drones do not fly when the skies are gray." Nabila was picking okra with her grandmother for a religious holiday meal, when day became night. "I saw from the sky a drone and I hear a dum-dum noise. Everything was dark and I couldn't see anything, but I heard a scream."
Only five Members of Congress came to hear this family's testimony. Only five listened to the real impact of one of America's most ruthless, extrajudicial, error-laden and enemy-producing war policies. The briefing was organized by both of us, Rep. Alan Grayson, and Director Robert Greenwald. It was part of our effort to change discourse about drone warfare. It also led the release of a new drone documentary, Unmanned: America's Drone Wars. The film told these and other drone victims' stories, focused on the government's shadowy "signature strike" policy allowed spy agencies to target and kill hundreds based on suspicion alone, and posed difficult questions that far too many lawmakers and national security officials still want to duck.
Those questions include: Should America be killing people in other countries with which we are not at war? What constitutional framework allows the President and spy agencies to be judge, jury and executioner? Where only four percent of victims are even "linked" to Al Qaeda, what role are the killings, playing in inciting warfare and making anti-American enemies? Why do national leaders -- in the White House, the Pentagon and Congress -- believe that so-called military "solutions" are the only way to address global hot spots? And why is it that every time they see something they don't like, they feel the urge to bomb it?
For a brief period, it appeared that some progress was being made on drone policy. The President announced that he would transfer the program from the CIA to the Pentagon, where it would, theoretically, be subject to more significant Congressional oversight. Legislation codifying that transition was introduced. Significantly, the frequency of drone strikes dropped as well.
But a recent event -- the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq -- has resuscitated America's dependence on drones. Our desire to avoid placing American troops on the ground again in the Middle East has had the perverse effect of promoting error-prone drones as the nation's weapon of choice. No substantive change has been made to this secretive foreign assassination program. Reform efforts in Congress have stalled. The Administration has cloaked its addiction to drone warfare with the label "national security," seeking to end any possibility of rational public discourse on the matter.
That's a problem for many reasons, but especially because drone strikes cause considerable "collateral damage" (an Orwellian phrase created by the military-industrial complex to sanitize the slaughter of the innocents). For every Al Qaeda "target" that a drone attack eliminates, it spawns dozens of new radicals intent on exacting retribution against the U.S. - vindication for the corpses and memories of hundreds of innocent civilians who have been killed, in regions where the U.S. needs allies, not enemies.
We cannot afford to delay reform any longer. We should start by acknowledging a simple truth: Many drone strike victims are not terrorists. These are real people - mothers, children, parents, cousins, human beings - not some nameless, faceless enemy. And any reform efforts should bring the drone program under the rule of law, with checks and balances on the actions of the Executive Branch, subjecting drone strikes to Congressional oversight, and compensation for the families of innocent victims.
Our politicians can no longer pretend that America's policy of drone strike vigilantism is going unnoticed by the international community. The United Nations and international human rights groups have issued multiple reports detailing the deaths of innocent civilians resulting from these strikes. The documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, has been seen by millions of people abroad, including in Pakistan; it was featured at a UN Human Rights Council meeting; and it is being screened on college campuses and universities across the globe. And last October, Congressional testimony by the Rehman family finally put a face to "collateral damage."
Not one of us would stand by idly while a foreign government killed American grandmothers, children, and other innocent civilians via remote-controlled weapons that rain down death from the skies. Yet that's precisely what the U.S. military-industrial complex has done for years, and we American citizens have let this happen in our good name. It's time we all paid attention. It's time we all acknowledged the immorality, the illegality, and the repercussions of U.S. drone strikes abroad.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri Oct 31, 2014, 04:00 PM (1 replies)
If an ad falls in the forest, and no voter sees it, does it win any votes?
To see our moving positive TV ad, click here. And then realize that it’s not just you who should see our ad, it’s our voters, too.
We have an inspiring ad, showing how my passing so many amendments in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party House has created and saved good jobs. The voters need to see it, and the voters deserve to see it.
There’s only one problem: our gubernatorial candidates, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott (everyone’s favorite oligarch), have bought up the airwaves. Their ads are so pervasive in Central Florida that it seems as though you can hear them even when your TV is off. They’ve made TV advertising more expensive than Charles Koch’s favorite yacht.
Desperate robber-baron Rick Scott, in particular, has been firebombing Orlando TV screens with his political napalm. This has pushed the cost of TV ads eight miles high.
Help us show our voters what it means to have a Congressman With Guts. Make a contribution today, so that someone other than you can see our TV ad.
Primetime TV advertising in Orlando now costs roughly $1000 per “point.” (In Anchorage and Little Rock, the cost is even higher.) Let me translate that from the native language of advertising, known by its acronym, “BS.” It now costs almost a dollar to show one primetime 30-second ad to one voter, once.
We can’t and won’t pay that kind of money for TV ads, so we try to work around the problem. We buy spots at odd hours. We buy spots from non-network stations. We buy spots that someone else just canceled. Using every trick in the book, we just placed a buy for Sunday and Monday that costs around 30 cents per view.
Now we just have to pay for it.
We need your help to keep our positive ad on the air. If you give us $30, then 100 voters will see this ad. If you give us $45, then 150 voters will see this ad. If 2,000 of us each gave $45, then every voter in the district would see this ad once, between now and Election Day.
Whether or not you’ve seen it before, please click here to see our ad. If you like it, then please help us pay for it. And give our voters the information that they need to feel good, just this once, when they’re marking their ballots.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Oct 30, 2014, 06:52 PM (6 replies)
Here is a startling statistic: Eighty percent of the ads run by sewer-money Super PACs in 2014 have been negative ads. NPR and the National Journal called this year’s negative ads “the worst ever.” According to the Washington Post, a week ago, there was one negative ad running in the North Carolina Senate race every single minute.
This is how Colorado’s Sen. Michael Bennet’s brother aptly described the situation back in 2012, before things got even worse: “This advertising seem less like the currency of democracy than like a grotesquely stupid exercise to enrich political consultants and local televisions stations, and to drive voters away from the polls.” It makes every election seem like a choice between the lesser of two evils, or the less evil of two lessers.
Well, you know how we are. When everyone’s doing one thing, we’ve got to do something else. It’s in our blood.
We’re running a positive ad.
We’re giving our voters a look at me, facing the camera, speaking to them directly. Now, admittedly, I am no George Clooney. I am no Brad Pitt. (More like Danny Trejo, or Vincent Schiavelli.) However, our voters do deserve to hear a few words out of my mouth (other than “I’m Alan Grayson, and I approve this ad”) before they make up their minds.
And our ad answers a very important question for the voters: What the heck have I done for them in the past two years? We took one out of the 33 amendments that I passed in the House – more than any other Member, Democratic or Republican – and explained how we’ve help to create and sustain jobs in America. In other words, I’m doing what most elected officials would never do, what they’re afraid to do, what they can’t do: I’m running on my record.
To see our positive ad, click here.
For sure, this positive ad will help to dispel the cartoon version of me that the other side has tried to draw. And maybe also help to dispel the stink of all those visual muggings that we’ve been forced to watch on TV, simply because we have leaders to choose.
Here is another reason: This week, I wrongly attributed a profound statement by Thumper’s father to Bambi’s mother. I apologize to Bambi, Thumper, and all other offended Disney cartoon characters. But that profound statement bears reiterating: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” (And when you say nothing at all, you avoid those awful double-negatives.)
That’s our other reason: We have something nice to say.
Click here to see our ad. If you like it, then you can help pay for it. And you can support our going-against-the-grain effort to say something good. Grayson for Congress: We’re lighting a candle, not cursing the darkness.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Oct 29, 2014, 06:29 PM (2 replies)
Here’s the latest: the Republican Party is paying for my opponent’s vicious attack ads.
Let me tell you why. By most objective standards, my opponent’s campaign is a failure.
Her name recognition in Central Florida hovers in the same range as William Jackson Brack’s. (Who is William Jackson Brack? Exactly my point.)
She has run up an $80,000 tab with her campaign suppliers, and she has no way to pay them back.
Her positions on the issues are wildly unpopular in Central Florida. Orlando has the lowest wages in the nation: 50th out of the top 50 metropolitan areas. So I want to raise the minimum wage. And she wants to repeal it.
Let me repeat that: My opponent wants to eliminate the minimum wage.
But none of that matters, because the Republican Party has targeted me, so they are spending their gutter money to pay for her gutter ads.
If you are a close political observer, you might have thought that they are not allowed to do that. You might have thought that a political party can spend its money only on so-called “independent expenditures,” not simply ponying up for whatever ad that a candidate wants to run.
They don’t care. They’ve tossed that fig leaf into the wood chipper. They mumble “441(a)(d),” or some other magical incantation like that, and then they just do whatever they want. They’ve known that they’ve got five votes on the U.S. Supreme Court, so they can get away with anything. “Rules, shmules, buddy; Clarence Thomas is in our pocket.”
We have to stop them; we have to stop this. Contribute to our campaign today, and help us fight back.
Is the Republican Party running a positive ad, extolling my opponent’s virtues? No; maybe because they couldn’t identify any, I don’t know. The ad that the Republican Party is paying for is the kind of repugnant, malevolent bushwah that they run on every day of the week ending with the letter “y.” Just another example of what Bill Clinton rightly called “the politics of personal destruction.”
Bambi’s mother said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.” The Republican Party says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, we’ll pay for your ad.”
In 2010, when I lost my first campaign for reelection, the Republican Party spent $1,000,000.00+ to defeat me, and the Democratic Party spent $0.00 to defend me. Zilch. Nadda. Zip. Diddly-squat. A big fat goose egg.
And this time? Not even a hill of beans.
So it’s up to you. Please don’t let the Republican Party dictate the outcome of this election. Don’t let the GOP pick off “the most effective Member of Congress,” while laying off the Democrats who act like personal servants to them.
The election is just eight days away. Now it’s me against the whole GOP. So I need your help — today.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Oct 27, 2014, 05:58 PM (1 replies)