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Alan Grayson

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Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 443

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Tomorrow's News Today: The GOP on "How We Lost the House"

This is a leaked copy of a secret memo written by the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, dated Nov. 10, 2014:

Dear Fellow Republicans:

I hate to say that I told you so, but I told you so.

I warned you almost two years ago that the Republican Party had to extend its appeal to Hispanics. Instead, we kicked up a s**tstorm over stalling on immigration reform, and we lost the House because of it. And now, we’ve got a big, fat load of nothing.

Perhaps I’m the only who noticed that:

(a) The Hispanic vote is the fastest-growing part of the electorate, increasing its percentage of the total vote by 1% every year;

(b) The Hispanic vote is concentrated in states like Texas and Florida that we must hold in order to be considered a national party; and

(c) In the 2012 Presidential election cycle, we lost the Hispanic vote by a ridiculous 68% to 30%.

So we already were skating on thin ice, going into the 2014 mid-term elections. And what did we do? We started jumping up and down on that thin ice, we crashed through it, and we drowned.

It should have told us something when Senators like Rubio, McCain and Flake, Republicans representing states with lots of Hispanic voters, said that we needed immigration reform. The Tea Party kept yelling that we would lose big if the undocumented won a path to votership. Yet the Republican Senators who supposedly had the most to lose from this, those very ones, spoke out for immigration reform.

And it should have been obvious what we had to do, when a substantial number of Republican Senators came out in favor of a sane and rational immigration bill. The Tea Party was hoping that the immigration bill would meet the same fate as the April 2013 gun control bill – death by filibuster. They were wrong. Sen. McConnell couldn’t hold the Republican Senators together in a filibuster, because even at that early point, the polling showed that there were a lot more single-issue pro-immigration voters than there are single-issue pro-gun-control voters. And that was before all the fun started, in 2014, in the House of Representatives.

Boehner told us, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” And then he went into the usual Orange Man routine: lots of bills, lots of hearings, lots of meetings with “stakeholders,” lots of letters back and forth between House Committee Chairs and Obama Administration officials, lots of amendments, mark-ups in three different committees, etc., etc.

All while the Hispanic vote was coming to a slow boil.

And then the party-line House Floor vote, and Boehner’s refusal to put any Senate bill up for a vote, and Boehner’s refusal to appoint House-Senate conferees. At which point, the Hispanic vote boiled over.

For once, the White House communications staff got it right. Instead of the President assailing “Congress,” the President assailed the Republicans. And he hit us where it hurt, calling out Republicans as heartless and soulless. The “Mean Party.” I particularly well-recall when our supposedly “Muslim” President quoted Matthew 25:40 from the King James Bible: “Truly I say to unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Plenty of Hispanics came right out and called us racists.

And then, as the clock ticked down, the protests – Oh God, the protests. Undocumented workers saying that they had worked for weeks and never been paid. That they had worked 70 hours each week in the hot sun, and hadn’t been paid enough to feed their hungry babies. Teenagers pleading for the chance to remain in the only country that they could remember, and not be exported like farm animals to a place that they had never known. Women testifying that they had been raped, but were afraid to go to the police, because they feared deportation and permanent separation from their own families.

And then the Tea Party lunatics started showing up at the protests with guns, and threatening “citizen arrests.”

And then crazy Sheriff Arpaio started making real arrests.

Every night, on the news. For weeks. Then months. While the House Republicans engaged in vigorous onanism.

We thought that we had a lock on the House of Representatives. We had that huge 10-to-1 post-Citizens United advantage in sewer money. We had the ridiculously gerrymandered congressional boundaries that in 2012 had delivered lopsided Republican House delegation majorities of:

-- 13 to 5 in Pennsylvania;
-- 12 to 4 in Ohio;
-- 8 to 3 in Virginia;
-- 9 to 5 in Michigan; and
-- 17 to 10 in Florida,

– all states that President Obama had won in the same year. (How else could we lose the national House vote by 1.6 million, and still end up on top by 35 seats? Hah!)

Well, we learned that we didn’t have a lock on the House. And we lost it in a way that nobody expected, except that one guy in Central Florida. (For sure, the Three Stooges, Rothenberg, Cook and Sabato, never saw it coming.) We got the Hispanics so incensed that they voted 90-to-10 against us, just like the African Americans do, every time.

After the 2012 election, there were 19 House Republican seats in districts that were 25% Hispanic or more. We managed to lose them all. Every single one of them.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – gone, after 25 years.

Ken Calvert, Buck McKeon and Ed Royce – all gone, after 22 years. (McKeon must have seen it coming; he retired.)

Hispanics were so riled up against Republicans that even tokenism didn’t work for us. Diaz-Balart and Nunes (Portuguese, actually) were swept out, along with Pearce and Farenthold.

At the last minute, there was a Republican push in Texas to remove party identification from the ballot, but that went nowhere. So Farenthold, Neugebauer, Conaway, Poe and Culbertson all kicked the bucket.

And it turned out that our great Republican “victory” in taking redistricting away from the Democratic-controlled California Legislature (while keeping control in all the states where we’re on top) didn’t help us at all. In California, we lost Valadao, Miller, Nunes, Denham, Calvert, McKeon, McCarthy, Cook, Royce and Hunter. We went from 34 Democrats and 19 Republicans in California to 44 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Could the Democrats in the California Legislature possibly have done any worse to us? (Answer: “No.”)

Part of the problem was that a lot of our people just didn’t know how to run in a competitive race. Take Randy Neugebauer – please. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to shout out “Baby Killer!” at another Member of the House in the midst of a debate on healthcare – when 40% of all Hispanics in America have no health coverage whatsoever. In 2012, Neugebauer won by 70 points. In 2014, he lost by eight. (Luckily for Rep. Joe Wilson, someone else given to vigorous expostulation at inopportune moments, Wilson’s district is less than 5% Hispanic.)

Losing those 19 seats just killed Republicans in the House. (We had only 17 to spare.) The Democrats actually gained seats in the Senate – including one in Texas, which is now just under 40% Hispanic. Farewell, GOP filibusters in the Senate!

But we still have the Supreme Court, right? Well, maybe not, since Justice Scalia, now 78 years old, went into the hospital last month, and he hasn’t come out yet.

In the last few days, I’ve spoken to a lot of lobbyists (or as I like to call them, “the owners”) – at least the ones who still take my calls. They weren’t happy even before the election. Nothing was moving through Congress, which means that nothing was moving for them. But now, with the Democrats holding the White House, the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, I’ve got nothing to offer them.

The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t care about abortion. It doesn’t care about the Second Amendment, or about gay marriage, or about prayer in the schools. The Chamber of Commerce cares about tax breaks and drilling rights and deregulation and no-bid contracts and bailouts. And now, we here in the GOP have no way to help them.

And the electorate? They now see us Republicans exactly as so many of us really are: as callous, bigoted tools.

Gentlemen, we have taken the biggest special-interest money machine in the history of the world, and we have destroyed it. By defeating some immigration bill that millionaires and billionaires and multinational corporations actually would have benefited from.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi already has told us what she, personally, will introduce H.R. 1: The Immigration Reform Act of 2015. With an 18-month path to citizenship that leaves several months to register all of those undocumented Democrats before the 2016 election. Consolidating the permanent Democratic majority.

Goodbye, Texas. Goodbye, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. In every national election from Day One, the Democrats now start with 30% of the national vote from African-Americans and Hispanics, and then they see how far they can run up the score. In other words, the Grand Old Party is now the Grand Dead Party.

Stick a fork in us. We’re done.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is fiction, at least today. But by November 2014, it might be fact. We shall see.

Something You Don’t See Very Often: Self-Sacrifice

Let me tell you why Rep. Luis Gutierrez deserves our support in his primary tomorrow.

Picture this: You’re driving in your car, making your typical morning commute. All of a sudden, federal agents pull you over, handcuff you, throw you in the back of an SUV, and incarcerate you. Here’s the thing -- you have a good job and a good home. You work hard, every day, to provide for yourself and your family. You follow the laws and you nurture your children. You want them to live productive, healthy lives, just as you do. But that existence is but a distant memory now. (Philip K. Dick fans, think of “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.”)

Not because of anything you did. But because of where you were born.

Because when you were a small child, your parents brought you to the United States. Land of the Free – except for you. That was their decision, not yours. It was entirely beyond your control; you didn’t even know how to feed yourself yet, much less how to choose your home. Now you’re stuck in jail on the charge of unlawful entry into the United States. In other words, you’re undocumented and unwanted. You are dispossessed, despised and damned. And so, after months (or maybe even years) of being treated like a felon, you’re shipped back to the country where you were born, and expelled from the only country that you know. Government agents deport you to a place where you may not even speak the language, with no money, food, shelter or identification.

Your parents brought you to the United States to make a better life for you. But in one fell swoop, that better life is over, and your life is torn asunder.

I picture the interview with the immigration official: Q. Why were you born in Mexico? A. Well, I wanted to be born in the United States, but giving birth to me was an important moment in my mother’s life, and I thought that I should be with her.

The New York Times Editorial Board recently shed some light on these inhumane practices: “The Obama administration, in expanding the surge of immigration enforcement begun under President George W. Bush, has detained and deported nearly two million people. The overwhelming majority are dealt with swiftly and summarily, without ever receiving a hearing before an immigration judge. Others who challenge their deportation … wait for years to get a resolution of their cases. Still others, lacking aggressive lawyers, languish forgotten in federal lockups across the country.”

That is the reality faced by a large chunk of the 11 million undocumented people in our country today. And it’s shameful. We’d call them “second-class citizens” – if they were citizens at all.

The undocumented may not be forgiven, but at least they are not forgotten. They have a champion in Congress: Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Congressman Luis Gutierrez has dedicated himself to being an advocate for the undocumented.
Luis Gutierrez has been a friend of the friendless, a voice for the voiceless. He faces a primary election tomorrow. Now it’s time for us to be his friend, and show him our support.
Last year, Rep. Gutierrez made a serious personal sacrifice in order to be the champion of the undocumented. He stepped down from his powerful position as the #3 Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, a subcommittee Ranking Member, so that he could devote himself to immigration reform on the House Judiciary Committee.

Let me explain what a sacrifice that is. Members of Congress join the Financial Services Committee for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: Because that’s where all the money is. It’s not just a honeypot, it’s a moneypot. Recently, Open Secrets pointed out that banking sector PACs already have dropped over $10 million in campaign contributions onto banking committee members during this election cycle, as much as all other PACs combined. As Open Secrets discreetly put it, the committee “has long been considered a ‘big money’ panel, with jurisdiction over (banks) that traditionally have been very generous with their campaign contributions to committee members.” And committee members, in return, have been “very generous” with regulatory “relief,” protection against competition, and bailouts. That’s what I loved about the Financial Services Committee when I served on it – everyone was always so “generous” to all of our Wall Street “friends.” Except for me, Luis Gutierrez, Chairman Barney Frank and a few others – all too few.

During the last Congressional term, the Public Campaign Action Fund calculated that the members of the Financial Services Committee had received $70 million in campaign contributions from the financial services sector. That’s over $1 million for each Member. Luis Gutierrez walked away from all of that cash to focus on his duties as Chair of the Immigration Taskforce.

Luis Gutierrez could have gotten all of the campaign cash he needed simply by remaining on the Financial Services Committee, and putting the arm on Wall Street lobbyists. Instead, he left that committee in order to bring millions of people out of the shadows. We should honor his sacrifice by supporting him in his election tomorrow.
Once dubbed the “Moses of the Latinos,” Congressman Gutierrez is the undisputed leader on Immigration Reform. We need him now, more than ever. Luis is up for reelection in a Democratic Primary on Tuesday, in his Chicago-area Congressional District. Join me in helping Luis part the Red Sea of bigotry by clicking here to contribute today: $5, $10, $25 or more will go a long way to ensure we retain a vocal proponent for the DREAM Act, and Immigration Reform.

Alan Grayson

Luis Gutierrez Hasn't Sold Out, And He Needs Our Help

Three years ago, I served with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) on the House Financial Services Committee, a/k/a "Cesspool of Corruption."

At the time, the Sunlight Foundation bluntly noted that "top committee members have been the recipients of disproportionate campaign contributions from the very industry that they are tasked with regulating." The Sunlight Foundation identified twelve committee members who had received over one-third of their campaign contributions from the financial sector, which the committee regulates. Six Democrats and six Republicans.

Rep. Gutierrez wasn't one of them. Even though he was a subcommittee chair.

Luis Gutierrez hasn't taken dirty Wall Street money. Now he is facing a primary challenge on Tuesday. He deserves our help.

Here is how one Wall Street lobbyist who isn't afraid to mix metaphors puts it: ""It is almost like investing in a first-round draft pick for the N.B.A. or N.F.L. There is potential there. So we make an investment, and we are hopeful that investment produces a return." Whether you're talking football or finance, those lobbyists want a "return" on their "investment": regulatory "relief," protection against competition, lower capital requirements, bailouts, tax breaks, whatever. And, sadly, any Wall Street lobbyist who ever "invested" in Luis Gutierrez had to write off that investment, as a loss. (But don't feel bad for the lobbyists; there's plenty more where that came from.)

Now you know why the New York Times refers to the Financial Services Committee as the "cash committee." It recently reported that seats on that committee are "coveted" because of the special-interest campaign cash that they generate. Members of the Financial Services Committee pine for special-interest contributions like Charles Foster Kane ached for "Rosebud." But Luis Gutierrez isn't like that.

Luis Gutierrez didn't take all of that special-interest campaign cash. And now he has to campaign without it, this Tuesday. Luis Gutierrez doesn't work for Wall Street banks and lobbyists, he works for us. Let's show him that we appreciate his honesty and integrity.

I was on the playing field when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was being shaped and enacted. I saw who stuck their hands into the pockets of Wall Street lobbyists, and who didn't. Luis Gutierrez didn't. Although he was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, an extremely influential and powerful position, he didn't have his hand out. Just like Committee Chairman Barney Frank didn't have his hand out, either.

Luis helped give birth to the bill that gave us Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and is making the banks pay for their own bailouts. He has helped to put that awful phrase "too big to fail" out of our lives. He is helping us to return to a sane banking system. Which means that he won't be inundated by that gusher of cash known as "Wall Street campaign contributions."

Let me put this as plainly as possible: If we don't help Luis Gutierrez when he is facing an election challenge, then he'll be gone. And Members of Congress like him will be gone. Replaced, both Republicans and Democrats alike, with Wall Street tools and shills.

Is that what you want?

If not, then click here. Show Luis Gutierrez, and show the world, that an elected official doesn't have to be on the take to survive.


Rep. Alan Grayson

It Would Be Nice If Someone In Congress Knew Something

I’m really getting tired of listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

One of the dirty little secrets of Congress is that many of us legislate in areas in which we are utterly bereft of knowledge. If ignorance is bliss, then some of our Members must be deliriously happy. (No wonder Sen. Ted Cruz is always smiling. Green eggs and ham. Yummy!)

Seriously, we have Members on the Agriculture Committee who couldn’t tell a plow from a harvester. We have Members on the Science Committee who couldn’t tell a proton from a photon. We have Members on the Foreign Affairs Committee who couldn’t locate Indonesia on a globe if their lives were at stake. And we have Members on the Intelligence Committee who are as dumb as . . . .

Well, you get the idea. And don’t even ask me about the Ethics Committee.

So that’s why I’m supporting George Gollin for Congress, and why you should support him, too. He actually knows stuff. Lots of stuff.

Even worse, to the extent that Members of Congress know any stuff at all, it’s always the same stuff. According to Roll Call, out of the 435 Members of the House, we have 187 businessmen, 156 lawyers, and 77 educators. Do the math. That leaves 15 Members.

For four years, I worked as an economist. As far as I know, I’m the only Member of Congress who can make that claim. Roll Call did not uncover anyone else. And believe me, whenever I start to talk economics in a Congressional hearing, the eyes glaze over. Quickly.

But don’t worry. Whenever we need an expert opinion on something, we can turn to the three former talk radio hosts in the House. (It was four, until one got caught inhaling cocaine.) Or perhaps we can benefit from the expertise of the former professional football player – whenever it’s third and nine on the Floor of the House.

This is why we need George Gollin in the House. The man actually knows what he’s talking about.

George Gollin is a physicist. In the 70s, he worked on muon scattering, to test quantum chromodynamics theory. (I’m not making this up.) In the 80s, he studied neutral K meson decay, to test for CP violation. (I swear that this is true.) In the 90s, he measured the production and decay properties of heavy quarks. (I kid you not.) Since then, he has specialized in the design and construction of electron-positron colliding beam facilities. (This is indeed bona fide.)

So we can elect George Gollin to Congress, or settle for yet another lawyer/businessman tool. What do you think? And as you consider that question, also consider that the U.S. Department of Energy spends roughly $10 billion a year in taxpayer dollars on physics research, with no one in Congress qualified to do oversight on that effort.

I serve on the House Science and Technology Committee. It is bleak, really bleak. A few months ago, one of our Members on the Committee said that evolution is “a lie straight from the pit of hell.” Most of the Members are climate change deniers. I keep encouraging them to transfer from the House Science Committee to the House Religion Committee, and follow their true calling. (There is no House Religion Committee, but their eyes light up anyway, when I tell them that.)

I need George Gollin’s help on the Science Committee, and in Congress. So we should help him get there.

Here’s another really good thing about George Gollin – he’s a liberal Democrat, and he’s not afraid to say so. In fact, that’s exactly what his TV ad says – that he’s a proud progressive Democrat. For that reason alone, he deserves our support. A progressive who is proud to be a progressive – how refreshing! I hope that this catches on.

By the way, there is another good progressive in this three-way primary, named David Green. I respect Green’s stands on the issues, but I don’t think that he has a chance to win. Gollin does.

George Gollin is in a tough primary race on Tuesday. It looks like he’ll come in ahead of David Green, but his real opponent is a Democrat-in-name-only, the choice of the local political machine, who appears to suffer from issuephobia. She’s a lawyer. Maybe Congress always will be crawling with witless lawyers and businessman, like vermin. But if someone like George Gollin can win, then maybe not. Maybe there is hope.

To help George Gollin win his primary on Tuesday, click here. Because George Gollin has both a head and a heart.


Rep. Alan Grayson

You Are the Straw That Stirs The Drink

A few weeks ago, we asked each one of our supporters to become a campaign “sustainer” – a donor who makes monthly contributions. Team Grayson said that we’d take our sustainers’ questions to the Congressman, in a series we call “Ask Alan Anything.” We’ve shared his video responses with you. Today, Congressman Alan Grayson wants to express his appreciation to all of those who signed up to sustain our campaign.

To see the video, click here.

I’m Congressman Alan Grayson. I want to say a special “THANK YOU,” not only to the individual sustainers who asked these questions, but to every sustainer, and to every supporter.

Your monthly contributions mean everything to us. It’s what makes ‘it’ happen. You are the straw that stirs the drink. You make everything we do possible.

When we pass an amendment, it’s you passing an amendment. When we collect and deliver signatures, it’s you collecting and delivering those signatures. When we stand against cuts (to) Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, it’s you who’s doing that.

When we accomplish something for the sake of justice, equality and peace - it’s not just me, it’s you. And it’s us.

And I appreciate your help. I need your help. Let’s keep this going. Thank you very much.

If you haven’t already signed up to be a sustainer, then Congressman Grayson needs your contribution to help his reelection effort this November. Anything you can contribute - $5, $15, or $50 – means more help to fight against the multinational corporations, the special interests, the selfish millionaires and billionaires, the Tea Party Republicans, the Fox News lackeys, and every other shill, stooge and sap who is desperate to see Alan Grayson defeated.So become a monthly sustainer today.

Besos y Abrazos (“kisses and hugs”),

Team Grayson

A Government That Is Up For Sale to The Highest Bidder

We don’t often quote Ronald Reagan, but Reagan once said that politics was the second oldest profession, and that there isn’t much difference between that and the oldest profession (the oldest profession being, well, you know). When a corporate PAC gives a campaign contribution, and it wants something in return, that sure seems a lot like bribery. Is it? Congressman Alan Grayson answers that question below. He’s been answering the questions posed by his campaign “sustainers” – supporters who makes monthly campaign contributions.

In a series that we’re calling “Ask Alan Anything,” if you became a monthly sustainer, Team Grayson is taking your questions to the Congressman. Today, Allison asks Alan, “What is the difference between industry lobbying and bribery? Especially when large campaign contributions are involved? I see no difference.”

You can watch the video of Congressman Grayson’s response here.

Congressman Alan Grayson: Good question -- What is the difference between industry lobbying and bribery? In fact, only an artificial one. One is legal; the other one is not – and nobody knows why. We scratch our heads when we think about it. It’s very hard to understand.

The fact is that campaign contributions are just as necessary to most Members of Congress as their food, their rent, and their mortgage payments. They need them in order to survive in office and, in fact, they make all sorts of compromises to do so.

It’s a fact. You can look it up. It’s a fact that you can trace, one-to-one, the contributions that specific companies give to Members of Congress and the tax breaks they receive. You can trace, one-to-one, the specific contributions that Members of Congress receive from companies and the no-bid contracts they receive. In fact it is a huge problem, and maybe THE problem.

A lot of people think that the central problem that we have in Washington, D.C. today is the way we finance our campaigns. A $10,000 check to many Members of Congress, nominally for their campaign committees, are things that they are desperate to receive, and they are willing to do almost anything to get. And that’s a big problem.

I’m proud to be the only Member of Congress -- one of 435 -- whose House campaign last year successfully was financed mostly by small contributions. That’s right: (there are) 435 of us, and I’m the only one who actually made his campaign work by getting most of our contributions from people who gave $200 or less.

How do we do it? We do it this way: We reach out to people. We reach out individually. We make sure that people understand that I’m fighting, every day, for justice, equality, and peace.

In the long run, people will understand this situation is unsustainable. We have, in essence, a government that is up for sale to the highest bidder.

But I want you to know that whether you give $10, or $25, or $50, or $100, whether you are a monthly sustainer who gives $10, or $25 or $50, whatever that might be, what you’re getting in return is not a bailout, what you’re getting in return is not a tax break, it’s not a no-bid contract or regulatory relief. What you’re getting in return is someone who will fight against all of that, and somebody who will fight for you. Somebody who will fight for the common good. That’s what I’m here for.

Congressman Grayson – maybe he’s not one in a million, but he is one in 435. The only Member of the House of Representatives whose 2012 House campaign was financed mostly by small contributions. The only Member whom you can count on to be unbought, and unbossed. That’s what we need in Congress. See the video. And if you aren’t one already, then become a monthly sustainer today, to make sure that our voice remains heard in Congress.

Hab Dich Lieb (“We’re fond of you”),

Team Grayson

He saw my complications,
And he mirrored me back, simplified.
And we laughed how our perfection,
Would always be denied.
"Heart and humor, and humility,"
He said, "Will lighten up your heavy load."

- Joni Mitchell, “Refuge of the Roads” (1976).

Comedian Bill Hicks – "It's Just a Ride"

Twenty years ago today, brilliant comedian Bill Hicks died of cancer, at the age of 32. Hicks's comedy has been an inspiration to me and millions of others. Hicks has been voted the fourth greatest stand-up comedian of all time. (If Hicks were alive to hear that, he would complain bitterly about losing out to Gandhi, Einstein and Stalin.) In honor of Bill Hicks, we yield this platform to him. This is how Hicks ended his performances:

( To the audience: ) You've been fantastic, and I hope you enjoyed it. There is a point (to my act). Is there a point to all of this? Let's find a point.

Is there a point to my act? I would say there is. I have to.

The world is like a ride, in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real, because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down, and round and round. It has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud and it's fun. For a while.

Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: "Is this real, or is this just a ride?"

And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, and they say, "Hey, don't worry. Don't be afraid, ever. Because this is just a ride."

And we . . . kill those people. Ha-ha!

"Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride! Shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real."

It's just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And we let the demons run amok.

But it doesn't matter, because it's just a ride, and we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort. No worry. No job. No savings and money.

(It's) a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one.

Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, into a better ride: Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defense each year and, instead, spend it feeding, clothing, and educating the poor of the world – which it would do many times over, not one human being excluded. And we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever. In peace.

Thank you very much, you've been great. I've hoped you enjoyed it. You're fantastic! Thank you! Thank you very much. (Hicks then falls to the ground, as if he were dead.)

Bill Hicks, R.I.P.

"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth. And wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks's eulogy for himself.

Drones in Pakistan: Peace . . . And Quiet

You probably didn't hear the news. In fact, I'm almost certain that you didn't hear the news, because the subject of drone warfare isn't on the approved list of what passes for news these days. But the news is that there were no U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan last month. For the first time in over two years.

I'm sure that the military-industrial complex will claim that this is a stunning victory in the war on terrorism, and that their steadfastness, dedication and fortitude have brought peace to the region. Whatever. I'm just pleased that there were no more dead children, killed by our hand. At least for one month. One whole month.

I'm happy that, conceivably, we may finally be seeing that secret war come to a quiet end.

During the last several years, there has been a fatal drone attack in Pakistan every two weeks. The longest respite coincided with a national election in Pakistan. Our military-industrial complex, recognizing how profoundly unpopular drone attacks are among the Pakistani people, temporarily stood down. Undoubtedly, the local apologists claimed that the attacks were over. They weren't.

The most recent month of peace in Pakistan was December 2011. Why that month? Because in November 2011, a U.S. airstrike accidently killed 24 Pakistan border guards – something else that you probably didn't hear about in the news. Given that gruesome embarrassment, the drones stood down during the month of December 2011. But the attacks resumed in January 2012, following calls from Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistani leaders.

There was another pause during November 2012, after a drone strike killed a 67-year-old grandmother as she was tending her garden. Another gruesome embarrassment, another brief pause. But 36 days later, the drones were on the prowl again.

This time, no one is quite sure why there was no drone attack in Pakistan last month. A fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute suggests that it might be because the Pakistani military has asked for more restraint. But he's not sure why they would do so.

I'm not sure, either. But maybe, just maybe, the two hearings that I attended on Capitol Hill listening to innocent victims of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen have something to do with it. Maybe my statement at one of those hearings that "the drone strikes could end tomorrow" if the Pakistani Government wanted it that way – a statement that was front-page news in Pakistan – has something to do with it.

The military-industrial complex wishes that it could continue to kill children and grandmothers in secret. But over time, Robert Greenwald at Brave New Films, and Code Pink, and Reprieve, and many other good people, are making that more and more difficult. (If you haven't yet seen the Brave New Films movie about innocent drone victims, you can click here to see it now.)

The more we know, the worse it is for the joystick killers. The truth will set us free – and also save innocent lives.



Rep. Alan Grayson

LAST CALL: Joni Mitchell Prints

As we explained on Friday, Blue America PAC is helping us fight back against vicious attack ads run by the Koch Brothers to beat Rep. Alan Grayson, by inviting Blue America supporters to contribute to the Grayson and Lee Rogers campaigns, and awarding four Joni Mitchell art prints to four lucky contributors. Blue America has opened that offer to our Grayson supporters, through Monday at 3 pm. For more, here is the former President of Warner/Reprise Records, Howie Klein:

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Koch Brothers are already pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into ads meant to demonize Alan Grayson, and defeat him in November. Fox "News" is targeting him again, as well. That these powerful entities are shoveling their vast resources towards Grayson's defeat is good news … because it proves that he's succeeding at the job that we sent him to Congress to do!

Blue America has launched a Joni Mitchell contest to help raise some campaign cash for Grayson's reelection, in the very expensive Orlando media market.

Grayson also requested that we ask our donors to give to Lee Rogers at the same time. Rogers is a friend and political ally running a tough campaign to win the seat Buck McKeon is giving up, just north of L.A.

"I like Lee Rogers," Grayson explained. "But that's not why I'm asking you to support his run for Congress.

"I respect Lee Rogers, because he is the doctor who founded and directed the Amputation Prevention Center, and reduced amputations by 72%. But that's not why I'm asking you to support his run for Congress.

"I know that we need a progressive doctor like Lee Rogers in Congress, to help Drs. Ami Bera and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) counter the demented ravings of Drs. Paul Broun (R-Paleolithic), Scott DesJarlais (R-Patient Dating), Michael Burgess (R-Fetal Wanking) and Larry Bucshon (R-Guns). But that's not why I'm asking you to support Lee Rogers's run for Congress.

"I'm asking you to support Lee Rogers for Congress, because we have to win a seat like his to turn the U.S. House of Representatives blue.

"Please contribute to the Lee Rogers for Congress campaign today. Every dollar counts, because every person counts.

"Do it for Nancy Pelosi, to make Nancy -- the first female Speaker of the House -- Speaker once more. Do it for me, so that I can push through all of our legislation for justice, equality and peace. Do it for yourself and the people you love, so that all of us can enjoy the blessings of good government."

That's what Alan Grayson had to say. Here at Blue America, this time we're running our "contest" a little differently. The basic rules are the same: Just contribute any amount to Alan and Lee on this special Joni Mitchell page -- or, if you're strapped for cash and want a chance to win, send us a postcard telling us so, at P.O. Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

What makes this contest different is that we're giving away four Joni Mitchell art prints (18" x 24"), and Grayson suggested that we choose four random winners! That gives everyone a lot better chance to win one of the rare, collectible Joni prints -- four times better. These prints have never been offered for sale, for any amount of money.

Let us add something that Lee Rogers told us about Congressman Grayson: "As a doctor, I know most people use their guts for digestion. But Rep. Alan Grayson uses his guts for a more constructive purpose. He stands up for the voiceless and underrepresented as a Congressman. Sadly, unless you're one of the 0.01% who donates significant money to fill the coffers of politicians, you're probably one of those who are underrepresented by Congress. Alan is your voice. I greatly admire Alan for having the guts to stand up to nearly everyone, and almost single-handedly prevent an American war in Syria. He's bold, and he 'tells it like it is.' Those are qualities I hope to emulate in Congress, and I'm honored to have his support in my election."

Again, here's where you can click to support Alan Grayson and Lee Rogers and enter to win one of the 4 Joni Mitchell prints. One is pictured, above.

We are all in this together,

Howie, for Digby, John and the Blue America team

DRAWING: Blue America and Joni Mitchell

When Blue America PAC learned about the vicious attack ads that the Koch Brothers are airing against our Congressman With Guts, Rep. Alan Grayson, Blue America leaders Howie Klein, John Amato and Digby decided to help. Blue America invited its supporters to contribute to the Grayson campaign, and also to the campaign of progressive House candidate Lee Rogers. To make things interesting, Blue America promised to award four Joni Mitchell art prints from Howie Klein’s personal collection to four lucky contributors. Blue America is now opening that offer to our Grayson supporters, through Sunday. For the details, we’re turning this over to the former President of Warner/Reprise Records, Howie Klein:

This week, we're pushing against the Fox and Koch smear campaign directed at Orlando progressive Congressman Alan Grayson. What we're doing is giving away four Joni Mitchell 18" x 24" art prints -- images she painted for her albums -- one print each, to four people who contribute to Alan Grayson and Lee Rogers. Alan asked that we help Lee's campaign as well.

The basic rules are the same as always: just contribute any amount to Alan and Lee on this special Joni Mitchell page -- or, if you're strapped for cash and want a chance to win, send us a post card telling us so at P.O. Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Everyone has a lot better chance to win one of the rare, collectible Joni prints -- four times better.

Since you're already on this mailing list, you probably already know why we think Alan Grayson is the most essential -- the best -- Member of Congress. But what you probably do not know is why Alan Grayson counts himself among the world's most devoted admirers of Joni Mitchell's work. He picked the prize, and this little essay he wrote will help you understand why:

“170 Beautiful Words,” by Alan Grayson

Howie Klein asked me to explain to his Blue America audience my fondness for Joni Mitchell songs. I decided to explain by example. Here are the lyrics -- just 170 words -- for one of Joni’s less famous songs, “For Free,” from her album Ladies of the Canyon (1970):

I slept last night in a good hotel.
I went shopping today for jewels.
The wind rushed around in the dirty town,
And the children let out from the schools.
I was standing on a noisy corner, waiting for the walking green.
Across the street he stood, and he played real good,
On his clarinet, for free.

Now me, I play for fortune, and those velvet curtain calls.
I've got a black limousine and two gentlemen, escorting me to the halls.
And I play if you have the money, or if you're a friend to me,
But the one man band, by the quick lunch stand,
He was playing real good. For free.

Nobody stopped to hear him, though he played so sweet and high.
They knew he had never been on their TV’s, so they passed his music by.
I meant to go over and ask for a song, maybe put on a harmony.
I heard his refrain, as the signal changed.
He was playing real good. For free.

Here are some reasons why I love this song, all 170 words of it:

1. I can see it. I can picture Joni Mitchell standing on that noisy corner, waiting for the walking green.

2. With just a few images -- “hotel,” “jewels,” “limousine,” “escorts” -- Joni paints the enormous perks of success, matter-of-factly, without bragging.

3. With one single sentence, Joni succinctly draws the Venn diagram of everyday life for the today’s successful people -- “I’ll play if you have the money, or if you’re a friend to me.”

4. Joni concedes that success, including her success, is not always deserved, nor is anonymity. “They knew he had never been on their TV’s, so they passed his music by.” Fame begets fame, with or without talent. (If you don’t believe Joni on this, then ask Kim Kardashian.)

5. A random meeting, a chance encounter. You notice something beautiful that other people seem to be overlooking. A man playing the clarinet. A pretty cloud in the sky. A clever bumper sticker on a car. The lines in your own palm. Are you open to that, or are you just too busy?

6. I wonder what happened at the end. Did Joni ask him for a song? Did they put on a harmony? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so, because those would have been forms of payment, and he was playing real good -- for free. But as I said, I’m not sure what happened at the end -- and I really would love to know.

Well, my exegesis on the song is now considerably longer than the song itself, so I’ll stop. But here’s the thing -- all of Joni Mitchell’s songs are like this. Dense. Poetic. Brimming with deep and yet casual insights into the way people are. And that’s putting aside the gorgeous musical compositions, and Joni’s surreal voice.

What is the meaning of life? I’m not sure, but I sense that it’s somewhere in there, suffusing the songs of Joni Mitchell.

Again, here's where you can support Alan Grayson and Lee Rogers and enter to win one of the 4 Joni Mitchell prints. One of them, in fact, is pictured on this page.

We are all in this together,

Howie, for Digby, John and the Blue America team
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